Robotics for a more resilient future

UK registered businesses can apply for a share of £6 million for Robotics and Artificial Intelligence technologies. This funding is from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. There are two strands running at the same time: feasibility studies and R&D.

The challenge aims to:

  • develop robotic solutions to make UK industries more resilient to future disruptions
  • increase productivity
  • open up new cross-disciplinary opportunities
Scope

Innovate UK is looking for robotic solutions that exploit business opportunities in areas such as healthcare, logistics, agriculture, construction, and robotics that can contribute towards the UK’s net-zero greenhouse gas commitment. More specifically, proposals must:

  • Clearly identify the operational needs and the market segments and sizes that the proposed Robotics and Artificial Intelligence (RAI) technology or system will be addressing
  • Identify the precise operational scenario or scenarios that the RAI system is expected to operate if successful
  • Quantify the system’s performance objectives and targets
  • Be based around a service robotics sector
  • Articulate what is innovative about the proposed project
  • R&D project proposals must explain the technological maturity at the start and end of the project
  • Clearly identify how proposed solutions will improve productivity or improve the resilience of the UK’s workforce to future disruptions to economic activity, supply chains and productivity
  • Demonstrate what market needs are being addressed
  • Clearly demonstrate understanding of the market and provide a commercialisation plan for the solution developed
Eligibility

Feasibility studies must:

  • Have total eligible costs between £25,000 and £100,000
  • Start on or after the 1st April 2021 and then end by 31st March 2022
  • Last between 3 and 12 months

In addition, single applicants for feasibility studies must be a UK-registered SME.

R&D Projects must:

  • Have total eligible costs between £75,000 and £500,000
  • Start on or after 1st April 2021 and then end by 31st March 2022
  • Last between 6 and 12 months

To lead a R&D project, your organisation must be a UK-registered business and work in collaboration. If you are a large business, it is essential that you also involve an SME.

This competition closes on 20th November 2020. If you’re applying to the R&D strand and require a collaborative partner, read more about our partner search service here. Alternatively, please feel free to contact us with any further enquiries.

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NATEP: helping SMEs innovate in aerospace

Innovate UK, working with the Aerospace Technology Institute and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, has announced new funding for aerospace innovation projects. From 5th October, UK registered SMEs can apply for a share of £2.5 million for industry-led civil aerospace research projects.

Scope

This competition aims to help SMEs develop their own innovative technologies, thereby enhancing their capabilities and increasing their ability to win new business in the civil aerospace sector. Eligible projects must have a potential application within the civil aerospace sector. You can find information on specific themes here. More generally, all projects must have a credible route to market and preferably have identified their end-users.

Additionally, all projects should:

  • Demonstrate improvement in business productivity and competitiveness
  • Show clear benefits technically.
  • Be able to pull through new technology or processes for use in a current or future product or manufacturing process.
  • Show clear benefits in creating or safeguarding jobs.
  • Be able to enhance capabilities within the broader aerospace industry, as well as other sectors e.g. advanced manufacturing.

Innovate UK intends to fund a portfolio of projects, across a variety of technologies, markets, and technological maturities.

Eligibility

Firstly, your project’s total eligible costs must be between £100,000 and £300,000. Furthermore, all projects must:

  • Be collaborative
  • Be led by a UK registered micro, small and medium-sized enterprise (SME)
  • Start by 1 May 2021 and end by 31 October 2022
  • Last between 12 and 18 months

This competition closes on 18th November 2020. You can find more information on eligibility, scope, and how to apply here. Before you start your application, check out our '5 steps to success' to ensure you write a competitive proposal.

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APC 17: developing the UK’s low carbon automotive capability

The Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) invests up to £30 million, three times a year, in collaborative research and development (R&D) projects. These are pre-production match-funded projects. This competition aims to support growth in advanced low carbon propulsion capability in the automotive sector. Up to £27m is available for UK-developed late-stage R&D.

Scope 

Your project must concentrate on the automotive market as its primary application, demonstrating the development of on-vehicle technologies for on or off-road vehicles.  Technologies may include motors, batteries, power electronics, hybridisation and alternative propulsion systems. Eligible projects will either:

  • Accelerate the development of technologies capable of low and zero tailpipe emissions, considering their associated ‘cradle to grave’ supply chains, up to and including end of life.
  • Demonstrate a significant reduction in carbon dioxide emissions leading to air quality improvements.

Additionally, your proposal should clearly align with the UK's Industrial Strategy and demonstrate how high-value R&D will take place in the UK as a result of this funding. APC is particularly interested in receiving applications for projects that support the UK's long-term supply chain, associated capabilities and growth aspirations. It is also important that your application demonstrates a positive impact on the UK economy. For example, it could create new supply chains to support the transition to electrification, or lower the overall cost of goods sold to customers.

Eligibility 

Your project must:

  • have total eligible costs between £5 million and £40 million
  • be a minimum of 50% match funded
  • start on 1st April 2021
  • last between 18 and 42 months

APC 17 closes on 14th October 2020. You can find further information regarding eligibility, scope, and how to apply here. For our help in putting together a competitive proposal, please contact us today. 


ISCF Transforming foundation industries: Building a resilient recovery

£8 million in grant funding is available for projects supporting the recovery and growth of the UK’s foundation industries. This funding is from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) and Innovate UK. The competition aims to support an innovation-led recovery from the Covid-19 crisis and protect the UK’s foundation industries innovation capability.

Innovate UK are looking to fund a portfolio of projects. However, all projects must:

  • help the UK’s foundation industries remain globally competitive and become more environmentally sustainable
  • indicate how the innovation helps meet the needs of business and/or industry as it emerges from Covid-19 pandemic and aids rapid recovery
  • demonstrate that the business has the capability to deliver the project

Specific themes

Projects must focus on resource or energy efficiency in the foundation industries and can focus on one or more of the following areas:

  • establish long-term viability of domestic supply chains
  • new markets
  • new business models
  • new products and services
  • new processes

Projects cannot focus on fuel switching or technologies for the capture of emissions, such as carbon capture and storage.

What is the ISCF?

The ISCF is part of the government’s Industrial Strategy, the long-term plan to raise productivity and earning power in the UK. They aim to increase funding in research and development by £4.7 billion over 4 years, strengthening UK science and business. Since the ISCF launched in 2016, it has supported 1820 organisations. Funding has been awarded to projects all over the country – could yours be next?

This competition closes on 4th November 2020. If you think that you may be eligible for funding, contact us today to arrange a free consultation. Alternatively, you can find more information on this competition here.


The good, the bad and the ugly: How to select the right bid writer

3 apples in a line to represent the good, the bad and the ugly. One is rotten, one is rotting, and one is ripe.With grant funding competitions now more competitive than ever, many businesses and research organisations are turning to an external bid writer to win them the funding they need. Of course, some organisations have in-house expertise in this field. However, many organisations struggle to cross the “valley of death”, i.e. the period between establishing proof of concept and validating the technology. They become unstuck and development stalls.

Grant funding is one vehicle to overcome this enormously challenging period, but with a typical timeframe of 6 to 10 weeks to develop a strong and robust grant application, it commonly falls to the bottom of the to-do list. Worse still, it may fall off the list altogether!

Obtaining the services of an external bid-writer is a useful means of ensuring your application is developed by an expert eye. It maximises your chance of success and ensures you can concentrate on running your business. However, bid writers come in all shapes and sizes.

There are large firms producing hundreds of applications on an annual basis, where the volume of proposals delivered drives a large, almost industrial scale business model. Smaller agencies, like RedKnight, are more selective about the proposals they support; they must carefully consider the time commitment required for each application. Then you have freelancers, people who are well versed in the art of writing an application but may struggle with capacity at peak times. Finally, there are organisations that offer bid-writing as a sort of ‘extra-curricular’ activity. Perhaps they were successful with their own application a few years ago and believe their methods can be of use to other organisations.

So, how do you see the wood from the trees? Regardless of the type of bid writer you engage with, it is crucial that you ask the right questions when you establish that initial engagement. We recommend asking the following key questions:

1. What is your business model?

Several commercial models operate in the sector. Some charge an upfront fee and no success fee, while others offer no-win no-fee. Additionally, some deliver based on a daily rate, whilst others have fixed fees. Different models will work for different businesses. Businesses should remember that bid writing for applications to Innovate UK and Horizon 2020 takes an enormous amount of time and effort. You should obtain a few quotes from 3 or 4 bid writers before proceeding. A word of caution – the cheaper the price, the more work you may end up doing yourself.

2. What is your success rate?

This is a standard question to ask any bid writer, and they should be able to provide you with an accurate figure without too much pause for thought. If they cannot give you a figure, it is probably worth moving on. Too high, and it might be too good to be true. It is not just the success rate of the bid writer that should interest you, but also the success rate of the competition. Some programmes are less than 5% whereas others can be as high as 25%.

3. Can you give me an example of a recent successful project you have supported?

Once you have enquired about the bid writer’s success rate, assuming they give you a figure, you can delve a little deeper and ask for recent examples of success. Do not fall for the old “sorry, I’m under NDA” trick. Any successful bid writer can give a general overview of some of their successful work. After all, isn’t that why we do what we do?

4. Can I have the contact details of those case studies, please?

As the saying goes, you want to hear it from the horse’s mouth. There is no shame in asking for a couple of references who will vouch for the bid writer and the work they have delivered. Try and push for references which best mimic your project. For example, if you’re applying as a single entity to Innovate UK’s SMART Grant, you ideally want to speak with a company who the bid writer supported either as a single entity or to that specific competition.

5. What is your capacity leading up to the deadline?

You will want to make certain that the bid writer is going to be able to support you every step of the way. You are investing in this process and you want to know the person you are entrusting with your application is going to be with you every step of the journey.

6. What is your bid writing process?

Every bid writer will have their own style and approach. At RedKnight, we try and stick to a 3-cycle development process of draft, optimised, final. This way it limits the amount of time the client has to spend reviewing the application, whilst ensuring they have enough contact to flag an issue at an appropriate milestone in the process. Try and find a bid writer whose style fits with your way of thinking.

The above points are by no means an exhaustive list of questions to ask a bid writer, but we’d recommend using them as part of your initial phone call or Zoom meeting. If you are talking with 3 or 4 different bid writers, remembering who had the best success rate and commercial offer can be tricky. Make a table and note the answers to all the above points for each bid writer. You can then cross-reference and come to an informed decision, which will hopefully lead to a successful grant funding application.

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SBRI competition: using digital technology to support psychological therapies

NHS Scotland is funding a new Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition. Organisations can apply for a share of £345,000 to fund digital technology projects with the potential to provide psychological support. Successful applicants will receive 100% funding and have access to advice from NHS Grampian.

This competition aims to increase the availability of psychological care at Royal Aberdeen Children's Hospital for children and young people with significant gastrointestinal symptoms but no underlying medical disease. Where there are no biomedical solutions, digital psychological support allows patients to self-manage symptoms and live a fuller life.

Scope

Innovate UK are looking for proposals that:

  • are interactive and engaging, and can be tailored to individual needs within general themes
  • embed sound psychological approaches to improve symptom management and wellbeing
  • will disrupt current clinical pathways in NHS Grampian and beyond, and transform clinical care to this population
  • use relevant NHS, academic and commercial expertise
  • have clinical and commercial potential locally, nationally and globally
  • are person-centred with the potential to co-produce solutions with both clinician and users, including CYP, parents and carers
  • detail creative, contemporary and engaging solutions targeted to CYP and families
  • can deliver an AI-driven psychological therapy service which consists of state-of-the-art technology that responds to the specific needs of young people at any given time.

This is phase 1 of a potential 2-phase competition. In phase 1, you must:

  • demonstrate the technical feasibility of your proposed innovation
  • establish ongoing collaboration between technical and clinical members of the project team
  • formalise any required ethical approvals, data sharing agreements, and contracts
  • submit an outline plan for phase 2.

Phase 1 projects should cost up to £10,000, including VAT. Projects must start by 21 October 2020 and last up to 3 months.

This competition is open from 20th July - 9th September. For more information, please visit Innovate UK. If you think that you may be eligible for SBRI funding, contact us today to arrange a free consultation.


Agri-tech catalyst round 10

From Monday 20th July, UK-registered organisations can apply for funding through round 10 of the Agri-tech Catalyst. A share of up to £2.5m is available to work on agri-tech and food chain innovations in Africa.

This competition aims to increase the pace of innovation in the development of agricultural and food systems in Africa. Eligible projects will result in more use of innovations by farmers and food systems organisations, such as manufacturers, processors, retailers, distributors, and wholesalers.

The competition is funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). It has three strands running at the same time:

  1. Early-stage feasibility studies
  2. Mid-stage industrial research
  3. Late-stage experimental development

If you are unsure, RedKnight Consultancy can help you decide which strand to apply for.

Scope

There are many opportunities and challenges for food systems. Therefore, Innovate UK are looking to fund a range of projects, across a variety of technologies, markets, technological maturities research categories, and different strands of the competition. Your proposal must show the potential to have a positive impact on poverty through the uptake of agricultural and food systems technology and innovation.

You can choose from one or more of the following areas:

  • primary crop and livestock production, including aquaculture
  • non-food uses of crops, excluding ornamentals
  • challenges in food processing, distribution or storage, and value addition (such as through a change in the physical state or form of the product)
  • improving the availability and accessibility of safe, healthy and nutritious foods

Your project's innovations must be sustainable in the context of environmental challenges, including climate change and resource scarcity. Furthermore, they should minimise negative effects such as pollution and food waste, and promote safe, healthy, and nutritious diets.

For further details on eligibility, scope, and how to apply, please visit Innovate UK. If you think that you might be eligible for Agri-tech Catalyst funding, contact us today to arrange a free consultation.


Biomedical Catalyst relaunches with £30 million

microbiologist working with sample in biomedical laboratory
 

The latest round of Innovate UK's Biomedical Catalyst will soon open for applications. From Monday 27th July, UK-registered SMEs can apply for a share of up to £30 million to develop a product or process that provides an innovative solution to a health and care challenge. Your project’s total eligible costs must be between £250,000 and £4 million.

Scope

This competition combines the early and late-stage strands of the Biomedical Catalyst. The aim of an early-stage award is to create a data package that is sufficient to support the testing of your product or process in a clinical setting. Meanwhile, the late-stage award will test a well-developed concept and show its effectiveness. Projects can focus on any health and care sector or discipline. However, they must be aligned to one of the following innovation areas:

  • medical technologies and devices
  • stratified healthcare
  • advanced therapies (gene and cell therapies)
  • digital health
  • drug discovery
  • diagnostics

Applications that support innovation in the following areas are particularly welcomed: child health technologies, innovations that support clinical trials in the UK, and biomedical innovations that combat the threat of antimicrobial resistance.

What is the Biomedical Catalyst?

The Biomedical Catalyst was developed in 2012 to achieve three key objectives:

  1. Deliver growth to the UK life sciences sector.
  2. Deliver innovative life sciences products and services into healthcare more quickly and effectively.
  3. Provide support to academic and commercially-led research and development.

A recent report by Ipsos MORI found that the Biomedical Catalyst has successfully met its objectives. Key findings include that the Biomedical Catalyst has offered strong value for money, increased companies' R&D investment by 93%, and increased employment by 11 to 15 percent over 3 to 5 years. Steve Bates, CEO of the UK BioIndustry Association, welcomed the announcement of additional funding:

"The Biomedical Catalyst has provided entrepeneurs and SMEs access to crucial capital to grow and scale. This is a key part of the Government's efforts to ensure the UK is resilient to future threats to public health, as well as supporting the development of new life-changing medical treatments, diagnostics and devices."

This competition closes on the 7th October 2020. If you'd like to apply, get in touch with RedKnight today to arrange a free consultation.


UKRI awards £400m to regional R&D projects

Seven major research and innovation projects across the UK are set to receive over £400m in government and industry funding. This investment will benefit some of the country’s most promising R&D projects, including businesses and universities in Cardiff, Bristol, Liverpool, Kent, Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Belfast.

As part of UKRI’s Strength in Places Fund, the funding will support cutting-edge research and innovation projects that drive local economic growth. It is the latest step towards reaching the government’s target of investing 2.4% of GDP in UK research and development by 2027. Each programme will deliver long-term economic benefits and benefit local people, closing the gap between the rate of growth in the area and nationally. The scheme will encourage more competitive and future-proof industries as our economy recovers from the coronavirus pandemic, creating thousands of jobs and enhancing skills across regions,

In May 2020, seven projects were awarded full stage funding from wave 1 of the Strength in Places Fund. As a Cardiff-based company, we are delighted that South Wales’ CS Connected is among them! Led by Cardiff University, the CS Connected SIPF project focuses on strengthening an emerging regional cluster in advanced semiconductor materials and manufacturing, bringing socio-economic benefits to South Wales. The project aims to develop a global advantage in a sovereign, key enabling technology that will allow the UK to increase trade globally in critical sectors such as communications, 5G, autonomous and electric vehicles, and medical devices.

The cluster already hosts 1400 high-value manufacturing jobs in the region and is delivering well above-average contributions to productivity. The project will also introduce a compound semiconductor skills academy, providing significant training that will enhance skills across South Wales. You can find out more about CS Connected and all the other successful projects here.

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Energy Catalyst Round 8: Clean Energy Access

Solar panels - a clean energy source - pictured in a field with blue sky above. Organisations can apply for a share of up to £20 million to develop and demonstrate innovative solutions for clean, affordable, and secure energy access in sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, or South East Asia. The competition aims to support highly innovative, market-focused energy solutions in any technology or sector.

Your project must encourage the development of products and services that help one or more of the specified countries to access secure, low cost, and low carbon energy. Projects must be targeted at people, public services, and local enterprises who are unable to afford or access existing solutions, or who lack the time or expertise to successfully use those solutions.

This competition has three strands, which are dependent on the stage your project is at:

  1. Early-stage for feasibility studies (this strand)
  2. Mid-stage for industrial research
  3. Late-stage for experimental development

The Energy Catalyst Programme is open to any energy technology from any sector. However, to be in scope for round 8 your project must address the following 3 subjects: energy access, the energy 'trilemma', and gender and social inclusion. For example, your project could focus on:

  • making new solutions more affordable.
  • integrating technologies in new systems or business models to help unlock finance and deployment.
  • developing technologies or partnership business models that address other barriers to deployment.
  • unlocking under-served market segments that existing solutions are not reaching at scale.

This competition closes on 16th September 2020. For further details on eligibility, scope, and how to apply, please visit the competition page.

Interested in applying? Contact us today to arrange a free consultation.