UK and Canada biomanufacturing innovations in cell and gene therapies

Canada flag blowing in the skyInnovate UK has partnered with the National Research Council of Canada for a new funding opportunity aimed at UK SMEs. They aim to identify UK partners who will bring innovative solutions to support and collaborate with the NRC Challenge Program in Health and Disruptive Technologies for Cell and Gene Therapy.

This competition aims to support improvements in biomanufacturing for cost-effective gene and cell-based therapies. Your project must develop solutions to address one of the following two areas:

1. Process improvement for adeno-associated virus (AAV) based gene therapy.


In this area, your proposal must:

  • Demonstrate economic viability by coupling your proposal to more cost-effective downstream processing options than what is currently available.
  • Be based on transient transfection, developing improvement of serum free media or processes to increase AAV upstream yields.
  • Develop faster in-line, online, at-line or off-line process analytical assays in order to support process development.
  • Develop more cost effective, robust and scalable AAV particle separation methods (preferably chromatography based).
2. Deploy process analytical technologies to perfusion-enabled lentiviral vector manufacturing.

In area 2, you will have access to the perfusion-enabled high yield LV production process developed at NRC. Your proposal must show how you will develop and deploy complementary in-line monitoring technologies for real time process characterisation using:

  • Capacitance frequency scanning (Aber Instruments).
  • Multi-wavelength fluorometry (NRC technology).
  • Raman spectroscopy including analysis algorithms.

Firstly, your project must:

  • Start by 1st May 2021.
  • Be up to 24 months in duration.
  • Have total eligible costs of up to £128,000, of which up to 75% will be funded by this initiative.

To lead a project, your organisation must be either a SME, catapult, charity, or not for profit. Before starting an application, you must also have established a partnership with an appropriate research team at NRC Canada. The Knowledge Transfer Network is holding an information session on the 3rd November where NRC researchers will explain the type of projects they are looking for. This provides a great opportunity to connect with NRC counterparts before applying.

This competition closes on 23rd December 2020. To find out more, please visit Innovate UK. Alternatively, you can contact us with any further enquiries.

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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

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

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.


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.


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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SBRI: using geospatial data to solve transport challenges, phase 1

Organisations can apply for a share of £2 million to develop feasibility studies for one of four themed challenges. Funded by the Geospatial Commission, this competition aims to identify innovative geospatial solutions to current challenges and enable the future of mobility.

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. Only successful applicants from the first phase will be able to apply to take part in phase 2.

Your application must focus on at least one of the following themes:
  • Mobility as a service – Overcoming siloed transport networks by enabling more seamless and accessible integration of transport modes.
  • Active travel – Mitigating safety risks to promote active travel.
  • Supply chains - Tackling logistical challenges including planning distribution networks and routing, optimising storage and warehousing, and last-mile delivery to reduce freight transport costs.
  • Increasing capacity - Managing over and under-capacity to increase efficiency of our transport networks without compromising safety.
More information

The Geospatial Commission expects to fund around 30 projects. To lead a project, you can be an organisation of any size and work alone or with other organisations. Contracts are available only for single legal entities, but subcontractors are also permitted.

Phase 1 contracts are for up to £75,000 for projects lasting up to 12 weeks. Projects should start by 4th January 2021 and end by 31st March 2021. Subsequently, phase 2 will award R&D contracts to businesses chosen from the successful phase 1 applicants. Funding of between £500,000 and £1 million will be allocated for each phase 2 contract, in order to develop a prototype and undertake field testing for 12 months.

If you think you are eligible for this funding, apply through Innovate UK before 4th November. You can learn more about Innovate UK bid writing here.

ISCF Faraday Battery Challenge: Round 4

The fourth round of the ISCF Faraday Battery Challenge is now open for grant funding applications. UK registered businesses can apply for a share of £10 million for innovation in electric vehicle battery technology. The competition aims to establish the UK's position as a global leader in the design, development, and manufacture of batteries for electric vehicles.

Innovate UK is looking to fund a portfolio of projects, across a variety of technologies, sectors, technological maturities, and research categories. There are two strands running at the same time:

1. Feasibility Studies

Firstly, Innovate UK will support business-led feasibility studies. They will fund the most exciting, high potential impact, early-stage research projects, where a 12-month feasibility study will accelerate commercialisation.

Proposals should clearly show how the feasibility study will accelerate the development of technologies with the potential to significantly advance the performance characteristics of batteries for electric vehicles. The project must last between 3 and 12 months and plan to end by 31st March 2022. Eligible costs should be between £100,000 and £1,000,000.

2. Innovation R&D

Secondly, Innovate UK will support the research and development of the most promising innovative battery technologies for the propulsion of electric vehicles. Projects should build on the outputs of previous activity to accelerate towards commercialisation.

Innovate UK is encouraging two types of project:

  • New projects building on the outputs and outcomes of previously funded Innovate UK projects or activities.
  • New projects building on internal activity within the organisation.

Proposals must clearly demonstrate a significant value-add and exploitation from a preceding feasibility study, collaborative research and development project, or previous non-grant-funded activity. Eligible costs must be between £300,000 and £1,500,000 and projects must again last between 3 and 12 months.

You can find more information on the ISCF Faraday Battery Challenge here. Alternatively, to discuss your project with one of our expert advisers, contact us today.

Women in Innovation: Closing the Gender Gap

Following the launch of the Women in Innovation Awards 2020/21, we're reflecting on the steps Innovate UK has taken to increase gender diversity in innovation.

The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship estimated that an additional £250 billion could be contributed to the UK economy if female entrepreneurs started and scaled their businesses at the same rate as men. However in 2016, just 14% of applications to Innovate UK were led by women – despite success rates between men and women being largely equal! Survey research found securing funding to be the biggest challenge facing women innovators. Furthermore, a third said they found being a woman in a male-dominated industry had negatively affected their career. Thus, there was a clear demand for more focused support services for female innovators.

Women in Innovation

This led to the creation of Innovate UK’s first diversity and inclusion campaign, Women in Innovation. The programme aims to address the under-representation of women engaging with Innovate UK. It encourages female-led innovation through specific events and funding competitions. So far, the programme has made significant progress in closing the gender gap; there has been an impressive 70% increase in the number of women leading Innovate UK grant applications.

Since 2016, Innovate UK has successfully engaged a new community of over 3000 women in innovation. Could you be next? The Women in Innovation Awards 2020/21 aim to find women with exciting ideas and ambitious plans that will inspire others. 10 winners will each receive a £50,000 grant, as well as a bespoke package of mentoring, coaching, and business support. If you think you might be eligible for this funding, you can apply here before 14th October 2020. Be sure to check out our '5 steps to success' to ensure you write a competitive proposal!


Additionally, Innovate UK has recently forged a new partnership with an award-winning educational-tech charity, Founders4Schools. The charity aims to increase the employability skills of pupils by facilitating encounters with employers. Through this partnership, inspirational members of the Women in Innovation community will volunteer to connect with their local schools. The goal is to encourage young people to explore innovative career pathways, regardless of their background or gender. We look forward to finding out how this initiative progresses.

What needs to happen next to close the gender gap in innovation? Share your thoughts with us in a comment below!

5G enabled road and rail transport trials in the West Midlands, round 2

UK registered businesses can apply for a share of £2.5 million to support the development of 5G enabled transport innovations. This funding is from West Midlands 5G, working in partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and the West Midlands Combined Authority through Transport for West Midlands. Innovate UK is managing the competition process.


This funding is available for innovative projects that develop a new service or product. These must improve road and rail operational efficiency, provide better-connected transport, or improve traveller experience. Furthermore, your project should include 3 months of user or product testing in your chosen location in the West Midlands using the live 5G environment.

Projects must focus on products or services in one or more of the following areas:

  • Movement of things – freight and logistics.
  • Movement of people – public transport, economic recovery, and traveller confidence following Covid-19.
  • Road operation and management.

Your project proposal should also demonstrate how 5G is essential to developing your new service or product. Alternatively, it can show how 5G offers a significant enhancement compared to current mobile communications.


Your project must:

  • Only claim up to £500,000 in grant funding.
  • Be up to 12 months in length.
  • Start by 15 March 2021 and end by 21 March 2022.

You must consult with Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) if the transport monitoring and control system needs to integrate with physical road or rail networks, or requires data. In these cases, you must also ask TfWM to provide a letter of support for your project.

To confirm 5G functionality is available for your project in the West Midlands, you must also consult with a mobile network operator (Vodafone, O2, BT or 3). Additionally, a public or private communications network provider or a communications integrator should be included as a partner or sub-contractor in your consortium.

This competition closes on 2nd December 2020. For our help in putting together a competitive proposal, please contact us. To stay up to date on the latest grant funding opportunities, subscribe to our free monthly newsletter today.

Return of Innovate UK's Smart Grants

From Friday 28th August, UK registered organisations can apply to Innovate UK’s Smart Grants competition. £25 million is available for disruptive R&D innovations that have the potential to significantly impact the UK economy.

Light bulb in speech bubbleScope

Applications can come from any area of technology and be applied to any part of the economy. This includes the creative industries, science or engineering, and the arts, design and media. Projects can overlap with the grand challenge areas, although Innovate UK is also keen to support projects in other areas.

Your proposal must demonstrate:

  • a clear game-changing, innovative and/or disruptive and ambitious idea leading to new products, processes or services
  • an idea that is significantly ahead of others in the field, set for rapid commercialisation
  • a strong and deliverable business plan that addresses (and documents) market potential and needs
  • a clear, evidence-based plan to deliver significant economic impact, return on investment (ROI) and growth through commercialisation, as soon as possible after project completion
  • a team, business arrangement or working structure with the necessary skills and experience to run and complete the project successfully and on time
  • awareness of all the main risks the project will face (including contractor or equipment failure, recruitment delays, etc) with realistic management, mitigation and impact minimisation plans for each risk
  • clear, considerable potential to significantly impact the UK economy and/or productivity in a positive way
  • sound, practical financial plans and timelines that represent good value for money, which will always be a consideration in Innovate UK funding decisions.

Your application must include at least one SME. They can be the lead or a collaborative grant claiming partner. The project must start no later than 1 May 2021 and end no later than 31 May 2024.

Your project must also follow specific rules based on its duration:

  1. Projects with durations between 6 and 18 months must have total eligible project costs between £25,000 and £500,000. They can be single or collaborative projects.
  2. Project durations between 19 months and 36 months must have total eligible project costs between £25,000 and £2 million. They must be collaborative projects.

RedKnight Consultancy has significant experience in supporting applications for Innovate UK Smart Grants. You can view one of our most recent success stories here. For our assistance in putting together a competitive proposal, please contact us today.

Sort and segregate nuclear waste: phase 1

Nuclear waste signs on fence urging cautionThis is a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition funded by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority. Organisations can apply for a share of £3.9 million, including VAT, to develop an autonomous, integrated toolkit to sort and segregate nuclear waste. The aim is to reduce the level of waste requiring disposal, thereby increasing productivity, reducing costs, and improving safety.

Eligible projects will reduce waste by prioritising its recycling over its disposal, as well as reduce the number of waste sorting and segregation processes carried out by humans. Additionally, all projects should increase productivity and be scalable and transferable.

Applications must address all of the following:

  • detect the type and intensity of the radioactivity present using existing technology or off-the-shelf equipment
  • determine the composition, size, shape, and surface area of the material
  • sort and segregate the waste by radioactive classification and material type
  • remotely move the waste from a specific area, process it and then pack it into the appropriate container (for example, skips, drums, boxes or bags) ensuring the space used is optimised
  • collect and analyse data and images, and retain accurate records

This is Phase 1 of a 2-phase competition:

Phase 1: Research and Development contracts, feasibility study (this competition)
  • Up to £600,000, including VAT, is available for Phase 1.
  • Projects will last up to 3 months.
  • You must produce a technical feasibility study for an innovative and integrative solution to the problem.
Phase 2: Research and Development contracts, prototype development and testing
  • Only successful applicants from phase 1 will be able to take part in phase 2.
  • Up to £900,000, including VAT, will be allocated for each contract for up to 15 months.
  • You must develop and demonstrate a full-scale prototype in a non-radioactive environment.

This competition runs from 17th August - 11th November. For more information, please visit Innovate UK. If you think that you may be eligible for funding, contact us today to arrange a free consultation.

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.