Funding competition SBRI Competition – Fusion Industry Challenges

Organisations can apply for a share of £2 million, inclusive of VAT, to develop solutions that accelerate fusion power plant design and reduce their fuel requirements.

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Competition sections

Description

This is a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition funded by the UK Atomic Energy Authority. The aim of the competition is to develop solutions to fusion energy challenges in two key priority areas. This competition has two themes:

  1. Accelerating fusion power plant design with next-generation digital tools
  2. Reducing fusion power plant fuel requirements with advanced production and handling technology for hydrogen isotopes

This is phase 1 of a potential 2 phase competition. A decision to proceed with phase 2 will depend on the outcomes from phase 1 and assessment of a separate application into a subsequent phase 2 competition.

Only successful applicants from phase 1 will be able to apply to take part in phase 2. Applicants for phase 2 will need to apply directly to the UK Atomic Energy Authority.

Any adoption and implementation of a solution from this competition would be subject of a separate, possible competitive, procurement exercise. This competition does not cover the purchase of any solution.

In applying to this phase 1 competition, you are entering into a competitive process.

This competition closes at 11am UK time on the date of the deadline.

Funding type

Procurement

Project size

Phase 1 projects can have total costs between £50,000 and £250,000, inclusive of VAT.

Who can apply

Your project

Projects are expected to start by 1 September 2021, end by 31 March 2022 and can last up to 6 months.

Applicant

To lead a project, you can:

  • be an organisation of any size
  • work alone or with others from business, research organisations, research and technology organisations or other sectors as subcontractors

Applicants are welcome from all sectors.

Contracts will be awarded only to a single legal entity. However, if you can justify subcontracting components of the work, you can employ specialist consultants or advisers. This work will still be the responsibility of the main contractor.

The assessors will consider fair value in making their evaluation.

Eligibility overview

Here is a diagram showing a summary of eligibility.

This is a new way of showing you eligibility. Your feedback will help us to improve it.

Funding

A total of up to £2 million, inclusive of VAT, is allocated to phase 1. The funding is provided by the UK Atomic Energy Authority.

Phase 1 feasibility study R&D contracts must have total costs between £50,000 and £250,000, inclusive of VAT. Each project must last up to 6 months. We expect to fund up to 8 projects.

The second phase involves up to four contracts being awarded to businesses chosen from the successful phase 1 applicants. Up to £3 million, inclusive of VAT, will be allocated for each contract, in order to develop a prototype and undertake field testing for up to 24 months.

The total funding available for the competition can change. The funders have the right to:

  • adjust the provisional funding allocations between the phases
  • apply a ‘portfolio’ approach

The contract is completed at the end of phase 2, and the successful business is expected to pursue commercialisation of their solution.

Research and development

Your application must have at least 50% of the contract value attributed directly and exclusively to R&D services, including solution exploration and design. R&D can also include prototyping and field-testing the product or service. This lets you incorporate the results of your exploration and design, and demonstrate that you can produce in quantity to acceptable quality standards.

R&D does not include:

  • commercial development activities such as quantity production
  • supply to establish commercial viability or to recover R&D costs
  • integration, customisation or incremental adaptations and improvements to existing products or processes

Value Added Tax (VAT)

You must select whether you are VAT registered before entering your project costs.

If you are VAT registered you must enter your project costs exclusive of VAT. As part of the application process, VAT will be automatically calculated and added to your project cost total.

If you are not VAT registered, then you must enter your project costs exclusive of VAT. You will not be able to increase invoice values to cover VAT later should you become VAT registered.

VAT is the responsibility of the invoicing business. We will not provide any further advice and advise you to seek independent advice from HMRC.

Subsidy Control

SBRI competitions involve procurement of R&D services at a fair market value and are not subject to Subsidy control criteria that typically apply to grant funding.

Your proposal

The aim of this competition is to encourage innovation in the fusion industry through the use of novel technologies and innovative uses of data.

We are looking for projects that develop solutions to fusion energy challenges in 2 key priority areas identified by the UK Atomic Energy Authority.

  1. Accelerating fusion power plant design with next-generation digital tools
  2. Reducing fusion power plant fuel requirements with advanced production and handling technology for hydrogen isotopes

In phase 1 you must demonstrate the feasibility of your project, in line with the specific themes.

We will give preference to applications which:

  • help the innovation be formally accepted for future use in a fusion plant environment, such as through obtaining relevant regulatory certificates or approvals during phase 2.
  • offer innovations that consider sustainability as part of their technology development

Your proposal must:

  • reduce the risk involved in taking up technologies and faster
  • outline plans to accelerate time to market
  • be pre-commercial
  • explain rationale for the solution and describe the expected impact
  • define how the proposed solution would enable and support the delivery of sustainable fusion power plants
  • assign at least 2 technical milestones where technical performance is reviewed in order to release funds
  • demonstrate a clear plan for commercialisation and a route to market for affordable, developed solutions
  • set out clearly how solutions might be tested in a representative or real world setting as part of phase 2
  • address how any potentially negative outcomes would be managed (such as on the environment or society)
  • demonstrate how you will work with at least one potential future customer throughout your project who might use your solution when it comes to market

Your proposed solution must:

  • be based on sound fundamental technical principles
  • be innovative
  • be practical and deliverable
  • take affordability into consideration
  • demonstrate the potential for cost-effectiveness
  • integrate with existing systems where necessary
  • consider user experience throughout the design and development process.
  • provide a business case for using the solution in a commercial environment that demonstrates improvement over the existing baseline conditions

At this stage contracts will be given for phase 1 only. You must define your goals and outline your plan for phase 2.

You must demonstrate a credible and practical route to market, so your application must include a plan to commercialise your results.

In phase 2 we will ask successful applicants from phase 1 to develop and demonstrate a working prototype in a real-world environment.

Specific themes

Your project must address one of these two themes:

1.Accelerating fusion power plant design with next-generation digital tools

To meet Net Zero targets, there is not enough time for traditional Design-Build-Test-Learn (DBTL) approach for fusion power plants. Increasing emphasis will be placed upon emerging innovation from in silico engineering design:

Exascale artificial Intelligence era Digital Thread platform

  • beyond current Product Lifecycle Management
  • endures for the lifetime of the product (100 years)
  • low-code
  • time efficient
  • scalable
  • enable and promote automation
  • enable design integration

Optimise the extraction of information and knowledge from experiment and simulation

Text update 19 May 2021: we have changed the detail below to clarify what we are looking for in applications.

  • data science for experiment and simulation automation and optimisation
  • decisions based upon all prior data rather than tacit knowledge
  • dramatically improve extraction of information from data
  • surrogate models and emulators
  • improve extrapolation of simulation and empirical data

2. Reducing fusion power plant fuel requirements with advanced production and handling technology for Hydrogen isotopes

Tritium is a radioactive isotope with a half-life of around 12 years, because of this natural reserves are scarce. Developing techniques for safely and efficiently managing hydrogen isotopes is an essential step in the path to making fusion a commercial energy source, for example:

  • Hydrogen Isotope Separation Technologies
  • improving efficiency of tritium and hydrogen systems (e.g. pumps, sealants, inner loop)
  • waste management and decommissioning
  • development of on-line Tritium production measurement (e.g. Raman spectroscopy)
  • tracking and location of hydrogen, e.g. Atom probe tomography, Raman spectroscopy

Research categories

In phase 1 the supplier will work closely with the stakeholders to develop a solution. The outcome of phase 2 will be a prototype of the solution.

Phase 1: technical feasibility studies

This means planned research or critical investigation to gain new knowledge and skills for developing new products, processes or services.

Phase 2: prototype development and evaluation

This can include prototyping, demonstrating, piloting, testing and validation of new or improved products, processes or services in environments representative of real life operating conditions. The primary objective is to make further technical improvements on products, processes or services that are not substantially set.

Projects we will not fund

We will not fund projects which:

  • do not engage with potential future customers to understand needs
  • cannot be undertaken within the working restrictions of coronavirus (COVID 19)
  • do not address how any potentially negative outcomes would be managed such as on the environment or society
  • do not address at least one theme within the competition scope
  • duplicates existing innovation, or work in progress by others
  • are not commercially viable
  • directly duplicate other UK government or EU funded initiatives you have already been funded to deliver
17 May 2021
Competition opens
27 May 2021
Briefing event: register to attend
30 June 2021 11:00am
Competition closes
1 August 2021
Applicants notified
1 September 2021
Phase 1 contracts awarded
1 September 2021
Feedback

Before you start

By submitting an application, you agree to the terms of the draft contract which is available once you start your application. The final contract will include any details you have agreed with the UK Atomic Energy Authority and will be sent to you if your application is successful. The contract is binding once the contract is returned by the applicant and signed by both parties.

The terms and conditions included in the draft contract should not substantially change. When you start an application on the Innovation Funding Service you will be prompted to create an account as the lead applicant or sign in as a representative of your organisation. You will need an account to track the progress of your application.

As the lead applicant you are responsible for:

  • collecting the information for your application
  • representing your organisation in leading the project if your application is successful
You will be able to invite colleagues from your organisation to contribute to the application.

What happens next

A selected panel of assessors will review and score your application and the winners of phase 1 contracts will be selected. All applicants will be provided feedback. The UK Atomic Energy Authority will undertake assessment of all applications and award contracts to successful applicants.

For phase 2 assessors can also take into account the phase 1 end-of-phase report. They might ask a number of finalists to attend an interview or give a demonstration.

What we will ask you

The application is split into 3 sections:

  1. Project details
  2. Application questions
  3. Finances.

1. Project details

These sections are not scored.

Application details

The lead applicant must complete this section. Give your project’s title, start date and duration.

Who made you aware of the competition?

Select a category to state who made you aware of the competition. You cannot ,choose more than one.

How long has your organisation been established for?

Select a category to state how long has your organisation been established for. You cannot choose more than one.

What is your organisation’s primary area focus?

Select a category to state your organisation’s primary focus area. You cannot choose more than one.

Equality Diversity and Inclusion

We collect and report on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) data to address under-representation in business innovation and ensure equality, diversity and inclusion across all our activities.

You must complete this EDI survey and then select yes in the application question. The survey will ask you questions on your gender, age, ethnicity and disability status. You will always have the option to ‘prefer not to say’ if you do not feel comfortable sharing this information.

Project and scope summary

Please provide a short summary of your project and describe how it meets the scope of the competition.

Describe your project briefly. Be clear about what makes it innovative and how it relates to the scope of the competition. How does it tackle different aspects of the challenge and how will it provide an integrated solution?

Give details of the lead organisation. Before you submit we expect you to have discussed your application within your own organisation and any other relevant organisations.

List any organisations you have named as subcontractors.

Your answer for this section can be up to 800 words long. This section is not scored, but we will use it to decide whether the project fits the scope of the competition. If it does not, it may be rejected.

Public description

Please provide a brief description of your project. If your application is successful, we will publish this description. This question is mandatory but we will not assess this content as part of your application.

Describe your project in detail, and in a way that you are happy to see published. Do not include any commercially sensitive information. If we award your project funding, we will publish this description. This could happen before you start your project. We have the right to amend the description before publication if necessary, but will consult you about any changes.

Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

2. Application questions

The assessors will score your answers for question 2 to 8, questions 1 and 9 are not scored. You will receive feedback from them for questions 2 to 8.

Your answer to each question can be up to 400 words long. Do not include any URLs in your answers unless we have explicitly requested a link to a video.

Question 1. Themes (not scored)

Select one main theme from the specific themes list in the ‘Scope’ section of this competition. You cannot choose more than one

  1. Accelerating fusion power plant design with next-generation digital tools
  2. Reducing fusion power plant fuel requirements with advanced production and handling technology for Hydrogen isotopes

Question 2. Proposed idea or technology

Provide a brief description of your proposed idea or technology. How does it address the outcomes described in the competition scope? To what extent does the project progress fusion?

Describe the current state of development or readiness of the idea.

You can submit a single appendix as a PDF containing images and diagrams to support your answer. It can be no larger than 10MB and up to 2 A4 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

This question will be scored against this assessment criterion: ‘How well does the proposal meet the challenge?’

Question 3. Technical project summary

Give a short background to the main technical challenges you are looking to address. Describe or explain:

  • how you will address the challenge
  • what the innovation is
  • the main technical deliverables
  • the research and development that will prove the scientific, environmental and commercial merit of the project
  • what might be achieved by deploying the innovation to address the selected challenge

This question will be scored against this assessment criterion: ‘How valid is the technical approach?’

Question 4. Current state of the art and intellectual property

Detail other products currently available on the market and how the innovation of your proposed project differentiates itself from them.

Include details of:

  • any existing intellectual property (IP)
  • its significance to your freedom to operate

This question will be scored against these assessment criteria: ‘How innovative is this project? How much does the project develop or employ novel concepts, approaches, methodologies, tools or technologies for this area?’

Question 5. Project plan and methodology

Describe your project plan and identify the main milestones.

The plan for phase 1 must be comprehensive. For phase 2 only an outline is required. The emphasis throughout should be on practicality. We are seeking evidence that the technology works, can be made into a viable product and can achieve the proposed benefits.

Describe or explain:

  • what resources will be needed to deliver the project
  • what the main success criteria would be
  • the identified project management processes that will ensure you achieve the milestones
  • the main technical, commercial and environmental risks and what you will do to mitigate them
  • how you would handle any IP issues which might arise during the project

Please ensure that if you are working with subcontractors you explain how you will maintain the freedom to operate and fulfil the IP requirements detailed in the contract. Allow for the preparation of a detailed plan for phase 2, towards the end of phase 1

You must upload a project plan or Gantt chart as an appendix in PDF format no larger than 10MB and up to 2 A4 pages. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Your milestones must be:

  • clear
  • defined using SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound) criteria
  • associated with the appropriate deliverables and payments

This question will be assessed against these assessment criteria: ‘Does the proposal show a clear plan for establishing technical and commercial feasibility and the development of a working prototype? Is there a clear management plan What are the main technical, commercial and environmental risks to project success? Will these be effectively managed? Are the milestones and evaluation procedures appropriate?’

Please note information from the finances section will be used to support the assessment of this question. Proposed milestones and associated payments stated in this section must match those entered in the finance summary on your application.

Question 6. Technical team and expertise

Provide a brief description of your technical team. Include the expertise of each team member or subcontractor that is relevant to your application, outlining why they are critical to the project’s success and how much of their time will be spent on the project.

This question will be scored against this assessment criterion: ‘Does the applicant have the skills, capabilities and experience to deliver the intended benefits?

Question 7. Costs and value for money

How much will the project cost for phase 1? How does it represent value for money for the team and the taxpayer?

Describe or explain:

  • the total eligible project costs, inclusive of VAT, you are requesting in terms of the project goals
  • how this project represents value for money for you and the taxpayer

You can submit a single appendix as a spreadsheet no larger than 10MB and up to 2 A4 pages long to support your answer. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Indicate your potential costs for phase 2. Progression to phase 2 depends on your success in phase 1.

Costs quoted must reflect actual costs at a “fair market value” and not include profit.

Full Economic Cost (FEC) calculations are not relevant for SBRI competitions. SBRI is a competitive process and applications will come from a variety of organisations. Whatever calculation you use to arrive at your total eligible project costs your application will be assessed against applications from other organisations. Bear this in mind when calculating your total eligible project costs. You can include overheads but remember that this is a competitive process.

You must select whether you are VAT registered before entering your project costs.

If you are VAT registered, you must enter your project costs exclusive of VAT. As part of the application, process VAT will be automatically calculated and added to your project cost total.

If you are not VAT registered, then you must enter your project costs exclusive of VAT. You will not be able to increase invoice values to cover VAT later should you become VAT registered.

VAT is the responsibility of the invoicing business. We will not provide any further advice and advise you to seek independent advice from HMRC.

The assessors are required to judge the application finances in terms of value for money. In other words, does the proposed cost for effort and deliverables reflect a fair market price? They will score your finances against this assessment criterion: ‘Are the budget and costs realistic, justified and appropriate for the aims and methods?

Please note information from the finances section will be used to support the assessment of this question. Proposed costs stated in this section must match those entered in the finance summary on your application.

Question 8. Commercial potential

Describe how you would realise the commercial potential of your proposal and to what timescales, including a clear plan to deliver that and a route to market. Focus on your proposed customer’s needs but you may also mention the future commercial potential across the public or private sector and the international market.

How far is the challenge you are addressing shared across the public and/or private sector in the UK and further afield? Describe the competitive advantage that your proposal has over existing or alternative technologies that meet market needs.

This question will be scored against these assessment criteria: ‘Is there a clear commercial potential for a marketable product, process or service and a clear plan to deliver that and a clear route to market? How significant is the competitive advantage of this technology over existing technologies that meet the market’s needs?’

Question 9. Project partners location (not scored)

Where are the organisations within your project team registered?

Please state the name of each organisation along with its full registered address. If you are working with an academic institution this doesn’t need to be included.

3. Finances

Enter your phase 1 project costs, organisation details and funding details.

You must select whether you are VAT registered before entering your project costs.

If you are VAT registered you must enter your project costs exclusive of VAT. As part of the application, process VAT will be automatically calculated and added to your project cost total.

If you are not VAT registered, then you must enter your project costs exclusive of VAT. You will not be able to increase invoice values to cover VAT later should you become VAT registered.

VAT is the responsibility of the invoicing business. We will not provide any further advice and advise you to seek independent advice from HMRC.

For full information on what costs you can claim, see our project costs guidance.

Background and further information

About Small Business Research Initiative competitions

SBRI provides innovative solutions to challenges faced by the public sector. This can lead to better public services and improved efficiency and effectiveness.

The SBRI programme:

  • supports economic growth and enables the development of innovative products and services through the public procurement of R&D
  • generates new business opportunities for companies
  • provides a route to market for their ideas
  • bridges the seed funding gap experienced by many early-stage companies

SBRI competitions are open to all organisations that can demonstrate a route to market for their solution. The SBRI scheme is particularly suited to small and medium-sized businesses, as the contracts are of relatively small value and operate on short timescales. Developments are 100% funded and focused on specific identified needs, increasing the chance of exploitation.

Suppliers for each project will be selected by an open competition process and retain the intellectual property generated from the project, with certain rights of use retained by the contracting authority. This is an excellent opportunity to establish an early customer for a new technology and to fund its development.

The UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA)

UKAEA researches fusion energy and related technologies, with the aim of positioning the UK as a leader in sustainable nuclear energy.

UKAEA’s mission is to lead the delivery of sustainable fusion energy and maximise the scientific and economic impact.

This is underpinned by four goals:

  • Goal 1 - Be a world leader in fusion research and development
  • Goal 2 - Enable the delivery of sustainable fusion power plants
  • Goal 3 - Drive economic growth and high-tech jobs in the UK
  • Goal 4 - Create places that accelerate innovation and develop skilled people for industry to thrive

Nuclear fusion, the process that powers the Sun, can play a big part in our carbon-free energy future. UKAEA manages the UK fusion programme at the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE) which is one of the world’s leading fusion research laboratories. Our scientists and engineers are working with partners around the globe to develop fusion as a new source of clean energy for tomorrow’s power stations. UKAEA’s research can be accessed at the UKAEA Scientific Publications site.

Data sharing

This competition is jointly operated by Innovate UK, and the UK Atomic Energy Authority (each an “agency”).

Your submitted application and any other information you provide at the application stage can be submitted to each agency on an individual basis for its storage, processing and use. Any relevant information produced during the application process concerning your application can be shared by one agency with the other, for its individual storage, processing and use.

This means that any information given to or generated by Innovate UK in respect of your application may be passed on to the UK Atomic Energy Authority and vice versa.

Innovate UK is directly accountable to you for its holding and processing of your information, including any personal data and confidential information. It is held in accordance with its Information Management Policy.

Innovate UK and the UK Atomic Energy Authority are directly accountable to you for their holding and processing of your information, including any personal data and confidential information. Data is held in accordance with their own policies. Accordingly, Innovate UK, and the UK Atomic Energy Authority will be data controllers for personal data submitted during the application.

Innovate UK complies with the requirements of GDPR, and is committed to upholding the data protection principles, and protecting your information. The Information Commissioner’s Office also has a useful guide for organisations, which outlines the data protection principles.


Further help and information

If you want help to find a project partner, contact the Knowledge Transfer Network.

If you have any questions about the scope requirements of this competition, email Abeer Abdalla (abeer.abdalla@ukaea.uk)

It is recommended that you attend the briefing event to gain access to further technical information regarding the competition.

If you need support with the application process, email us at support@innovateuk.ukri.org or call the competition helpline on 0300 321 4357 between 9am and 11:30am or 2pm and 4.30pm Monday to Friday (excluding Bank Holidays).

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