Future flight challenge phase 3: strand 1
UK registered businesses can apply for a share of up to £65 million to develop and demonstrate integrated aviation systems and new vehicle technologies. This funding is from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund
- Competition opens: Monday 6 September 2021
- Competition closes: Wednesday 10 November 2021 11:00am
This competition is now closed.
Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, will invest up to £65 million in innovation projects. Projects must demonstrate integrated aviation systems and vehicle technologies that enable new classes of electric or autonomous air vehicles.
The aim of this competition is to fund projects that will deliver the 2024 vision of the Future Flight Challenge and position the UK as a leader in the third revolution of aviation. This competition will build on the success of the 2020 Phase 2 competition and will focus primarily on the demonstration aspects of these novel air vehicles and systems.
We are looking to fund ambitious projects that will successfully integrate the technical, regulatory and social challenges necessary to prove these new modes of transport.
Your proposal must demonstrate the operation of vehicles or enabling systems in a representative environment whilst meeting a viable and challenging use case.
Projects must also support the overall objectives of the Future Flight Challenge and align with key Government policies on Net Zero Transport.
This competition is split into 2 strands. The strands are:
- Strand 1, demonstration (this strand)
- Strand 2, cross-cutting technologies that enable the deployment and operation of new air vehicles
In Strand 1, projects must focus on the demonstration aspects of novel classes of electric or autonomous air vehicles and systems.
In applying to this competition, you are entering into a competitive process. This competition closes at 11am UK time on the deadline stated.
Your project’s total eligible costs must be between £500,000 and £15 million.
Who can apply
Your project must:
- have total eligible costs between £500,000 and £15 million
- start on 1 April 2022
- end by 31 March 2024
- last between 12 and 24 months
- carry out its project work in the UK
- intend to exploit the results from or in the UK
If your project’s total eligible costs fall outside of our eligibility criteria, you must provide justification by email to firstname.lastname@example.org at least 10 working days before the competition closes. We will decide whether to approve your request. If you have not requested approval or your application has not been approved by us, you will be made ineligible and your application will not be sent for assessment.
To lead a project your organisation must:
- be a UK registered business of any size
- be or involve at least one UK registered SME
- collaborate with other UK registered businesses, academic institutions, charities, not-for-profit, public sector organisations or research and technology organisations (RTOs)
Academic institutions cannot lead.
To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must be one of the following UK registered:
- business of any size
- academic institution
- public sector organisation
- research and technology organisation (RTO)
Each partner organisation must be invited into the Innovation Funding Service by the lead to collaborate on a project. Once accepted, partners will be asked to login or to create an account and enter their own project costs into the Innovation Funding Service.
The lead and at least one other organisation must claim funding by entering their costs during the application.
Your project can include partners that do not receive any of this competition’s funding, for example, non-UK businesses. Their costs will count towards the total eligible project costs.
Subcontractors are allowed in this competition.
Subcontractors can be from anywhere in the UK and you must select them through your usual procurement process.
You can use subcontractors from overseas but must make the case in your application as to why you could not use suppliers from the UK.
You must also provide a detailed rationale, evidence of the potential UK contractors you approached and the reasons why they were unable to work with you.
We expect all subcontractor costs to be justified and appropriate to the total eligible project costs. We will not accept a cheaper cost as a sufficient reason to use an overseas subcontractor.
Number of applications
A business can only lead on one application but can be included as a collaborator in a further 2 applications.Organisations not leading can collaborate on any number of applications.
You can use a previously submitted application to apply for this competition.
We will not award you funding if you have:
- failed to exploit a previously funded project
- an overdue independent accountant’s report
- failed to comply with grant terms and conditions
Subsidy control (and State aid where applicable)
This competition provides funding in line with the UK's obligations and commitments to Subsidy Control. Further information about the UK Subsidy Control requirements can be found within the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation agreement and the subsequent guidance from the department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
Innovate UK is unable to award organisations that are considered to be in financial difficulty. We will conduct financial viability and eligibility tests to confirm this is not the case following the application stage.
EU State aid rules now only apply in limited circumstances. Please see our general guidance to check if these rules apply to your organisation.
If you are unsure about your obligations under the UK Subsidy Control regime or the State aid rules, you should take independent legal advice. We are unable to advise on individual eligibility or legal obligations.
You must make sure at all times that the funding awarded to you is compliant with all current Subsidy Control legislation applicable in the United Kingdom.
This aims to regulate any advantage granted by a public sector body which threatens to or actually distorts competition in the United Kingdom or any other country or countries.
If there are any changes to the above requirements that mean we need to change the terms of this competition, we will tell you as soon as possible.
We have allocated up to £65 million to fund innovation projects across the two strands of this competition.
If the majority of your organisation’s work on the project is commercial or economic, your funding request must not exceed the limits below. These limits apply even if your organisation normally acts non-economically.
For industrial research projects, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:
- up to 70% if you are a micro or small organisation
- up to 60% if you are a medium-sized organisation
- up to 50% if you are a large organisation
For experimental development projects which are nearer to market, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:
- up to 45% if you are a micro or small organisation
- up to 35% if you are a medium-sized organisation
- up to 25% if you are a large organisation
For more information on company sizes, please refer to the company accounts guidance. This is a change from the EU definition unless you are applying under State aid.
If you are applying for an award funded under State aid Regulations, the definitions are set out in the European Commission Recommendation of 6 May 2003.
The research organisations undertaking non-economic activity as part of the project can share up to 30% of the total eligible project costs. If your consortium contains more than one research organisation undertaking non-economic activity, this maximum is shared between them.
Off that 30% you could get funding for your eligible project costs of up to:
- 80% of full economic costs (FEC) if you are a Je-s registered institution such as an academic
- 100% of your eligible project costs if you are an RTO, charity, non-profit organisation, public sector organisation or research organisation
The aim of this competition is to fund ambitious projects that will successfully integrate the technical, regulatory and social challenges necessary to prove new classes of electric or autonomous air vehicles.
The Future Flight Challenge is based around 3 classes of aircraft:
- Drones or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS)
- Advanced Air Mobility (AAM)
- Sub-regional electric or hybrid passenger aircraft
For strand 1 of the competition your project must include a means of demonstration of one or more of these classes of aircraft and enabling systems, operating in a representative environment.
You should include the participation of end users or operators in your project and engagement with appropriate local authorities would be beneficial.
A clear understanding of the regulatory requirements and proposed route to achieving regulatory approval must be demonstrated.
We want to fund a portfolio of projects, with a variety of technologies, markets, aircraft classes, use cases and research categories across both strands of this competition.
Consideration will be given to projects with a specific regional focus and ambitions for Net Zero transport solutions.The Future Flight team reserves the right to approach and agree with projects’ changes of scope during the project lifecycle. This can include recommending changes to project partners and to combine or merge projects in order to achieve fully integrated demonstrations. It is expected that further funds may be available to support such changes.
Your project must focus on demonstrating the operation of aircraft in a representative environment whilst meeting a viable and challenging use case. Use cases should be real-world applications which drive integration of the different aviation system elements for each of the three Future Flight vehicle classes.
Examples include, but are not limited to:
- demonstrations of multiple drones, operating as a beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) service in a defined geographic area.
- a multi-modal demonstration of different aircraft types operating in parallel providing an end-to-end solution
- AAM vehicle operation in a representative environment
- scheduled sub-regional electric flights over a representative route
You can find further details of use cases that projects are recommended to align with on the Future Flight Challenge web page.
Projects we will not fund
We are not funding projects that:
- are a development of systems or sub-systems for application to large civil passenger aircraft
- do not include any form of demonstration
- have no plan for engagement with an end-user or operator
- are developing sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) for gas turbine or turboprop aircraft
- focus solely on defence or space applications
- are dependent on export performance - for example, giving a subsidy to a baker on the condition that they export a certain quantity of bread to another country
- are dependent on domestic inputs usage - for example, if they insisted that a baker use 50% UK flour in their product
- 6 September 2021
- Competition opens
- 14 September 2021
- Online briefing event - watch the recording
- 10 November 2021 11:00am
- Competition closes
- 8 December 2021
- Invite to interview
- 10 January 2022
- Interview panel
- 24 March 2022 4:24pm
- Applicants notified
Before you start
You must read the guidance on applying for a competition on the Innovation Funding Service before you start.
What we ask you
The application is split into 3 sections:
1. Project details.
2. Application questions.
If your online application is successful at this stage, you will be invited to attend an interview, where you must give a presentation. Your interview will take place either online or at a designated location.
Before the interview, by the deadline stated in the invitation email, you:
- must send a list of who will attend the interview
- must send your interview presentation slides
- can send a written response to the assessors’ feedback
List of attendees
Agree the list with your consortium. Up to 9 people from your project can attend, ideally one person from each organisation. They must all be available on all published interview dates. We are unable to reschedule slots once allocated.
Your interview presentation must:
- use Microsoft PowerPoint
- be no longer than 30 minutes
- have no more than 30 slides
- not include any video or embedded web links
You cannot change the presentation after you submit it or bring any additional materials to the interview.
Written response to assessor feedback
This is optional and is an opportunity to answer the assessors’ concerns. It can:
- be up to 4 A4 pages in a single PDF or Word document
- include charts or diagrams
InterviewAfter your presentation, the panel will spend 45 minutes asking questions. You will be expected to answer based on the information you provided in your application form, presentation and the response to feedback.
1. Project details
This section provides background for the assessors and is not scored.
Decide which organisations will work with you on the project. Invite people from those organisations to help complete the application.
The lead applicant must complete this section. Give your project’s title, start date and duration.
Will the project, including any related activities, you want Innovate UK to fund, affect trade between Northern Ireland and the EU?
All participants must complete this section.
Select the type of research you will undertake.
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.
All participants must complete this EDI survey and the lead applicant must 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.
Describe your project briefly and be clear about what makes it innovative. We use this section to assign experts to assess your application.
Your answer can be up to 400 words long.
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.
Your answer can be up to 400 words long.
Describe how your project fits the scope of the competition. If your project is not in scope it will be immediately rejected and will not be sent for assessment. We will tell you the reason why.
Your answer can be up to 400 words long.
2. Application questions
The assessors will score your answers for questions 2 to 11, question 1 is not scored. You will receive feedback from them for each scored question.
Your answer to each question can be up to 400 words long. Do not include any website addresses (URLs) in your answers.
Question 1. Project partners location (not scored)
You must state the name of your organisation along with your full registered address.
If you are working in collaboration, you must also state the name and full registered address of all your partners.
We are collecting this information to understand the geographical location of all participants of a project.
Question 2. Need or challenge
What is the business need, technological challenge or market opportunity behind your innovation?
Describe or explain:
- the main motivation for the project
- the business need, technological challenge or market opportunity
- the nearest current state-of-the-art, including those near market or in development, and its limitations
- any work you have already done to respond to this need, for example if the project focuses on developing an existing capability or building a new one
- the wider economic, social, environmental, cultural or political challenges which are influential in creating the opportunity, such as incoming regulations, using our Horizons tool if appropriate
Question 3. Approach and innovation
What approach will you take and where will the focus of the innovation be?
Describe or explain:
- how you will respond to the need, challenge or opportunity identified
- how you will improve on the nearest current state-of-the-art identified
- whether the innovation will focus on the application of existing technologies in new areas, the development of new technologies for existing areas or a totally disruptive approach
- the freedom you have to operate
- how this project fits with your current product, service lines or offerings
- how it will make you more competitive
- the nature of the outputs you expect from the project (for example report, demonstrator, know-how, new process, product or service design) and how these will help you to target the need, challenge or opportunity identified
You must submit one appendix. It can include diagrams and charts. It must be a PDF and can be up to 5 A4 pages long and no larger than 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.
Question 4. Team and resources
Who is in the project team and what are their roles?
Describe or explain:
- the roles, skills and experience of all members of the project team that are relevant to the approach you will be taking
- the resources, equipment and facilities needed for the project and how you will access them, particularly in the light of any continuing COVID-19 restrictions
- the details of any vital external parties, including subcontractors, who you will need to work with to successfully carry out the project
- the current relationships between project partners and how these will change as a result of the project
- any roles you will need to recruit for taking into account the impact of COVID-19 restrictions on the team structure
You must submit one appendix. This can include a short summary of the main people working on the project to support your answer. It must be a PDF and can be up to 5 A4 pages long and no larger than 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.
Question 5. Market awareness
What does the market you are targeting look like?
Describe or explain:
- the markets (domestic, international or both) you will be targeting in the project, and any other potential markets
- the size of the target markets for the project outcomes, backed up by references where available
- the structure and dynamics of the target markets, including customer segmentation, together with predicted growth rates within clear timeframes
- the target markets’ main supply or value chains and business models, and any barriers to entry that exist
- the current UK position in targeting these markets
- the size and main features of any other markets not already listed
If your project is highly innovative, where the market may be unexplored, describe or explain:
- what the market’s size might to be
- how your project will try to explore the market’s potential
Question 6. Outcomes and route to market
How are you going to grow your business and increase your productivity into the long term as a result of the project?
Describe or explain:
- your current position in the markets and supply or value chains outlined, and whether you will be extending or establishing your market position
- your target customers or end users, and the value to them, for example why they would use or buy your product
- your route to market, particularly if COVID-19 has changed market dynamics
- how you are going to profit from the innovation, including increased revenues or cost reduction
- how the innovation will affect your productivity and growth, in both the short and the long term
- how you will protect and exploit the outputs of the project, for example through know-how, patenting, designs or changes to your business model
- your strategy for targeting the other markets you have identified during or after the project
If there is any research organisation activity in the project, describe:
- your plans to spread the project’s research outputs over a reasonable timescale
- how you expect to use the results generated from the project in further research activities
Question 7. Wider impacts
What impact might this project have outside the project team?
Describe, and where possible, measure the economic benefits from the project such as productivity increases and import substitution, to:
- external parties
- others in the supply chain
- broader industry
- the UK economy
Describe, and where possible, measure:
- any expected impact on government priorities
- any expected environmental impacts, either positive or negative
- any expected regional impacts of the project
Describe any expected social impacts, either positive or negative on, for example:
- quality of life
- social inclusion or exclusion
- jobs, such as safeguarding, creating, changing or displacing them
- public empowerment
- health and safety
Question 8. Project management
How will you manage the project effectively?
Describe or explain:
- the main work packages of the project, indicating the lead partner assigned to each and the total cost of each one
- your approach to project management, identifying any major tools and mechanisms you will use to get a successful and innovative project outcome
- the management reporting lines
- your project plan in enough detail to identify any links or dependencies between work packages or milestones, taking into account the possible impact of further COVID-19 restrictions
You must submit a project plan or Gantt chart as an appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF, can be up to 5 A4 pages long and no larger than 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.
Question 9. Risks
What are the main risks for this project?
Describe or explain:
- the main risks and uncertainties of the project, including the technical, commercial, managerial and environmental risks
- how you will mitigate these risks
- any project inputs that are critical to completion, such as resources, expertise, data sets
- any output likely to be subject to regulatory requirements, certification, ethical issues and so on, and how you will manage this
You must submit a risk register as an appendix to support your answer. It must be a PDF and can be up to 5 A4 pages long and no larger than 10MB in size. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.
Question 10. Added value
What impact would an injection of public funding have on the businesses involved?
Describe or explain:
- whether this project could go ahead in any form without public funding and if so, the difference the public funding would make, such as a faster route to market, more partners or reduced risk
- the likely impact of the project on the businesses of the partners involved
- why you are not able to wholly fund the project from your own resources or other forms of private-sector funding, and what would happen if the application is unsuccessful
- how this project would change the nature of R&D activity the partners would undertake, and the related spend
Question 11. Costs and value for money
How much will the project cost and how does it represent value for money for the team and the taxpayer?
In terms of the project goals, describe or explain:
- the total eligible project costs
- the grant you are requesting
- how each partner will finance their contributions to the project
- how this project represents value for money for you and the taxpayer
- how it compares to what you would spend your money on otherwise
- the balance of costs and grant across the project partners
- any subcontractor costs and why they are critical to the project
Each organisation in your project must complete their own project costs, organisation details and funding details in the application.
Academic institutions must complete and upload a Je-S form.For full details on what costs you can claim see our project costs guidance.
Background and further information
The Future Flight Challenge is a £300m programme in three phases that will assure the UK’s position in the third aviation revolution. Using new classes of electric or hydrogen and autonomous vehicles the challenge will transform how we connect people, deliver goods and provide services. It will speed up the acceptance of these innovative air vehicles into service safely and practically by encouraging different businesses to share their knowledge and resources to work together.
The challenge is creating a new community with members from across the diverse aviation industry. Linking new entrants, established global players, academia and regulators they are encouraged to jointly develop new aviation system concepts and work with communities to secure early involvement with new technologies.
The overall intent of the Future Flight Challenge is to a secure first mover advantage for the UK in creating this breadth of new aviation system demonstration. It will also inspire and accelerate the next generation of sustainable aviation to position the UK as a world leader in aviation products and markets. Doing this will enable the UK to build, use and export new, greener ways of flying that will enable new modes of travel and new services.
Finding a project partner
If you want help to find a project partner, contact the Knowledge Transfer Network - email@example.com.
If you receive an award, you will be contacted about working with an innovation and growth specialist at Innovate UK EDGE. This service forms part of our funded offer to you.
These specialists focus on growing innovative businesses and ensuring that projects contribute to their growth. Working one-to-one, they can help you to identify your best strategy and harness world-class resources to grow and achieve scale.
We encourage you to engage with EDGE, delivered by a knowledgeable and objective specialist near you.
If you need more information about how to apply or you want to submit your application in Welsh, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0300 321 4357.
Our phone lines are open from 9am to 11:30am and 2pm to 4:30pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).
Innovate UK is committed to making support for applicants accessible to everyone.
We can provide help for applicants who face barriers when making an application. This might be as a result of a disability, neurodiversity or anything else that makes it difficult to use our services. We can also give help and make other reasonable adjustments for you if your application is successful.
If you think you need more support, it is important that you contact our Customer Support Service as early as possible during your application process. You should aim to contact us no later than 10 working days before the competition closing date.
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