Competition guidance: design foundations competition 2017 round 2

Updated 10 May 2017

1. Dates and deadlines

Competition opens 8 May 2017
Competition briefing events Manchester Tuesday 16 May 2017
Cardiff Tuesday 23 May 2017
Dundee Thursday 25 May 2017
Final date for registration Midday 14 June 2017
Submission of the full application
including finance forms, appendices and Je-S forms
Midday 21 June 2017
Decision to applicants 28 July 2017

Please read the full competition scope before you make your application.

2. Funding

There is £1 million of funding available from Innovate UK for strategic, early-stage design interventions to help businesses:

  • understand customer needs, identify innovation opportunities and propositions that would be desirable to customers
  • generate and explore new products, services and/or business model ideas quickly and with minimal risk
  • communicate ideas in a clear, compelling way to investors, customers, internal teams and other stakeholders
  • boost their capability to plan, procure, manage and deliver strategic design interventions

Please read our funding rules guidance for more information on the different categories of funding and the rules around our state aid framework.

3. Requirements and eligibility


  • you may be eligible to receive different rates of funding. This depends on the type and size of your organisation and the activity that you are doing in the project
  • submissions using the incorrect application form will not be considered eligible
  • submissions without complete or missing finance forms will not be considered eligible
  • all submission documents must be submitted in the correct file format as explained in this document; any document in an incorrect format will result in the entire application not being sent for assessment
  • if an application is unsuccessful, you can use the feedback received to re-apply for the same project once more into another round of this competition or another competition within scope
  • if you have been awarded previous grants as the lead or sole company, no new awards will be made if we feel that you have not made a substantial effort to exploit these previous grants. This is detailed in the exploitation plan submitted in the application(s) for the previous grants. The decision will meet the following criteria:
  • it will be decided by the sector team concerned using evidence from Monitoring Officer reports and other sources which will be documented
    • it will be made by at least 3 sector team members collectively
    • it will be communicated in writing to the company by the Innovation Lead dealing with the new grant application
    • it will not be contestable and Innovate UK will not enter into subsequent correspondence


  • all projects must be led by a UK business of any size
  • only UK based companies are eligible to receive funding from Innovate UK
  • total projects costs should be between £10,000 and £60,000
  • businesses may use up to 70% of the total project cost to sub-contract design services
  • sub-contractors can be businesses, universities, non-profit research and technology organisations (including catapults), public sector research establishments or research council institutes
  • we may consider projects outside the ranges described in section 2 but you must contact us via customer support services to discuss at least 10 days before the registration deadline to discuss further
  • 1 business can be involved in up to 1 application to this competition

4. Competition process

For this competition, Innovate UK will use a portfolio approach. This is to make sure that the strategic criteria described in the competition brief is met for all projects considered to be above the quality threshold. This will be as a result of independent expert assessment. The process will follow these steps:

  • submitted applications will be reviewed to make sure that they are both eligible and in scope for the competition
  • only applications that meet the eligibility and scope requirements of the competition will be sent for assessment
  • applications in scope will be assessed by up to 5 external assessors who are experts in the innovation area identified in your application
  • assessors will score applications consistently and in line with scoring matrices. They will provide written feedback for each marked question
  • applications will be ranked in descending order. Applications which score over a quality threshold are reviewed against Innovate UK’s strategy to build a portfolio of projects that:
    • are high quality
    • target opportunities across a range of industrial sectors, technologies, themes and priorities which includes a spread of project costs and durations that fit the available funding
    • addresses a range of innovation challenges across, but not limited to, Innovate UK’s 4 priority areas: health and life sciences, infrastructure systems, manufacturing and materials and emerging and enabling technologies
    • reflects a range of different early-stage design challenges and output types
    • demonstrate sufficient innovation, potential return on investment and degree of technical risk
    • demonstrate value for money, include the potential impact of the project relative to its cost, and the cost of other projects under consideration
  • the lead applicant will be notified of the funding decision
  • all eligible and in scope applications for the competition will receive assessor feedback

5. How to apply

Before you apply into an Innovate UK competition, it is important to understand the whole application process. The information contained in this guidance is specific to this competition. In addition, please read our general guidance for applicants to give you further information that will help you to complete your application, this includes:

  • funding rules (this will help when defining your organisation type)
  • project costs
  • state aid
  • how to submit your application
  • categories of research and development
  • participation in a project

You will receive an email acknowledgement of your registration followed by a second email up to 48 hours later. The second email will contain a username and password for our secure upload facility along with a unique application number and form.

Application: Once you have received your unique username and password, you can sign in to the secure website. You are then able to access the finance form for this competition from the public download area.

Finance form: Only finance forms named ’Project Finance Form May 2017.xls’ will be accepted into this competition. Previous versions of the project finance form will be ineligible.

Submit your documents: You or your lead partner should submit to your FTP site:

  • your application form with your unique application number for this competition (mandatory)
  • project finance forms for every non-academic partner (including the lead organisation) in your project (mandatory)
  • Je-S submission pdf output document, confirming a “with council” status for every academic partner in your project, if any (mandatory)
  • project appendices as pdf documents, labelled correctly as per the appendices guidance in section 10

Scope check: Only applications that meet the eligibility criteria and scope of the competition will be sent for assessment. You will be notified if your application is out of scope with a full explanation as to why. Innovate UK reserves the right to declare applications as out of scope.

Assessment: Once the scope and eligibility checks have been completed, all applications that are both eligible and in scope are sent for assessment.

Notification: We will notify the lead organisation of the outcome of the application by the date stated in the timeline, using the email address provided in the application form.

Feedback: Approximately 4 weeks after you have received your notification email, we will give feedback to all applications that have been assessed. The lead applicant can access and download the feedback by signing into the secure FTP site where you uploaded your application documents. It is the responsibility of the lead to communicate the feedback with the rest of the consortium, if applicable. No additional feedback can be provided and there will be no further discussion on the application.

6. The application form

This section explains the structure of the application form and offers guidance on what to answer in each question.

The structure is as follows:

  • application details
  • summary of proposed project
  • public description of the project
  • gateway question: scope
  • question 1: project aims and objectives
  • question 2: project activities and outputs
  • question 3: addressing innovation barriers
  • question 4: project team and management
  • question 5: additionality
  • question 6: cost and value for money
  • other funding from public sector bodies
  • finance summary table

Please make sure that you upload the final version of your application by the deadline. It is your responsibility to ensure that you do not upload a blank or incomplete application form. You should also follow these steps:

  • you can only use the application form provided. It contains specific information including a unique reference number for your project
  • the application form contains specific fields. It is important that you complete each field and submit a fully completed form. Incomplete forms will be considered ineligible and won’t be sent for assessment
  • the application form must not be altered, converted or saved as a different version of Microsoft Word
  • the space provided in each field of the form is fixed. You must restrict your responses in each of the fields to the space provided. The typeface, font size and colour are predetermined. Illustrations, graphics and hyperlinks cannot be included in the application form
  • the light grey shaded fields are completed automatically from other information entered on the form, such as the total columns of a table. These cannot be overwritten
  • you should be able to see your total answer to the question when looking at the application form in print view. Any text that cannot be seen in this view or when the form is printed will not be assessed
  • your answer to the questions should be no longer than half a page of A4 using either Calibri 11 or Arial 11. No other fonts will be accepted

As part of our objective to stimulate and support UK innovation, we have established a close network of affinity partners. This list is made up of organisations that can help Innovate UK fund and support innovative businesses. Our joint aim is to speed up sustainable economic growth for the UK.

In some cases, we may share the public description of your project with other potential funding bodies, for example, Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP’s), agencies of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. These bodies may wish to contact you about providing funding or other support for your proposal.

Field Guidance
Competition name This field will show the full name of the Innovate UK competition to which the form applies. You do not need to enter anything here.
Document ID This field is completed automatically.
Applicant number This field is completed automatically and is the reference that you should use on all correspondence (this is the 6 digit number after the dash).
Application details  
Project title Enter the full title of the project.
Theme Please select from the drop down list.
Research category Please select from the drop down list.
Project timescales Enter the estimated start date and its planned duration. These are indicative at this stage and are not guaranteed.
(Lead) organisation name Enter the full registered name of the (lead) organisation for the project. If you are not in a consortium application, these will be your organisation details.
Please note that the lead organisation will be the main point of contact between Innovate UK and the project team.
(Lead) organisation contact details Enter the full name, postcode, email address and telephone number of the main point of contact between Innovate UK and the project.

6.1 Summary of proposed project (not scored)


Please provide a short summary of the content and objectives of the project including what is innovative about it.

This summary is not scored, but provides an introduction to your proposal for the benefit of Innovate UK staff and assessors only. It will not be used for any public dissemination. It should cover, in brief:

  • the business need, technological challenge or market opportunity to be targeted
  • the approach to be taken and how this will improve on current state-of-the-art
  • the difference the project will make to the competitiveness and productivity of the partners involved

6.2 Public description of the project (not scored)


To comply with government practice on openness and transparency of public-funded activities, Innovate UK has to publish information relating to funded projects. Please provide a short description of your proposal in a way that will be understandable to the general public. Do not include any commercially confidential information, for example, intellectual property or patent details.

Describe your project. Funding will not be provided to successful projects without this.

6.3 Gateway Question: Scope


How does this application align with the specific competition scope?

  • all applications must align with the specific competition scope criteria as described in the relevant competition brief
  • to demonstrate alignment, you need to show that a clear majority of the project’s objectives and activities are aligned with the specific competition:
    • is your project early-stage, human-centred design?
    • does your project follow a proven early-stage design process, progressing from human insight gathering, through interpretation of that insight to idea generation, testing and iteration?
    • does the project focus on understanding, defining and validating the quality of the experience delivered by new products or services, rather than focussing on the development of the technical solution?

There are many well-proven tools and processes for early-stage design, including the ‘double diamond’ framework. Whilst these differ in detail and terminology, most include phases of insight gathering (discovery), interpretation (definition), idea generation, testing, iteration (development) and implementation (delivery).

Human-centred design is characterised by a focus on the needs of stakeholders and on the quality of experience delivered by a product or service. Stakeholder experiences should be validated through rapid and often low-fidelity visualisation, simulation and prototyping. The process should take account of technical feasibility and risk, but the detailed development of underlying technical solutions is out of scope.

The scope of the design foundations competition covers activities from insight gathering (discovery) through to the testing and iteration of ideas (development). The implementation (delivery) of a selected idea, including the creation of final design specifications and detailed technical development is out of scope.

If your project excludes activities typical of early-stage, human centred design processes you should explain why these activities are not necessary or relevant.

7. Competition questions

All questions apply to all project partners and are scored out of 10 marks.

7.1 Question 1: project aims and objectives

This question asks why you need to do the project. You should explain the context and your motivations for carrying out early-stage design activity. You should also describe what the project will achieve, both in terms of creating value for your business and boosting future innovation capabilities.

Project aims might include:

  • gaining valuable customer insight
  • identifying value propositions and routes to market
  • generating new ideas and creating the plans and materials that will help you exploit those ideas

Objectives could also relate to improving the innovation capability of the business by addressing internal barriers and/or adopting new processes.

7.2 Question 2: Project activities and outputs

This question asks how you will conduct the project to achieve the aims and objectives set out in question 1. You should outline a step-by-step project plan, broken down into individual phases of work. For each phase of work, explain:

  • what will be done?
  • who will do it?
  • what will the outputs be?
  • how will these outputs help towards the overall project objectives?
  • how long will it take?

You should make clear reference to any specific design processes or tools that you intend to use, and show how these relate to the phases of work or activities.

You may support your answer to this question with further material such as a GANTT chart of process diagram within an appendix (see section 10 supplementary documents).

7.3 Question 3: Addressing innovation barriers

You should describe how you will create the best conditions for new processes and ideas to gain traction within your business. Consider, for example:

  • are key stakeholders (including within your own business) fully on-board with the project? If not, how will the project engage them?
  • how will you ensure effective communication between the different stakeholders involved in the project?
  • are appropriate, transparent decision-making processes in place or can they be implemented as part of the project?
  • effective design requires the consideration of a broad range of potential solutions, many of which, through fast simulation and testing, might be found to fail. Are ‘good failures’ tolerated? How will team members be empowered explore, fail and learn?
  • how will you make sure that stakeholders are prepared to work from first principles, reframe objectives, challenge assumptions, reassess existing ideas and explore alternative solutions in response to new insight?
  • what outputs and deliverables will be required to secure buy-in and facilitate next steps?

7.4 Question 4: Project team and management

Who will carry out the work and how will you access appropriate design capability?

In your answer, you should

  • describe the roles, skills and relevant experience of the project team (applicant and sub-contractors)
  • highlight the experience, expertise and capabilities of the team with regard to early-stage, human-centred design
  • describe any resources, equipment and facilities required for the project and how you will access them
  • provide details of any key external parties, including sub-contractors, who you will need to work with to successfully execute the project
  • highlight any gaps in the team that will need to be filled

You may support your answer to this question with further material such as relevant design project case studies, team member biographies or CVs within an appendix (see section 10 supplementary documents).

7.5 Question 5: Additionality

Describe the impact that an injection of public funding would have on this project.

In your answer, you should

  • tell us if this project could go ahead in any form without public funding and if so, the difference the public funding would make (faster results, working with other businesses or organisations, reduced risk, increased investment potential)
  • explain how this project represents a new and significantly different approach to innovation for the applicant
  • describe the likely impact of the project on the applicant’s business
  • tell us why you are not able to wholly fund the project from your own resources or other forms of private-sector funding (what would happen if the application is unsuccessful)
  • explain how this project would change the nature of R&D activity the applicant would undertake (and related spend)

7.6 Question 6: 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?

  • justify the total project cost and the grant being requested in terms of the project goals
  • explain how the partners will finance their contributions to the project
  • explain how this project represents value for money for you and the taxpayer. How does it compare to what you would spend your money on otherwise?
  • justify the balance of costs and grant across the project partners
  • justify any sub-contractor costs and why they are critical to the project

7.7 Other funding from public sector bodies

If you have included one or more entries in column 7 of the finance summary table (on the following page), please provide:

  • the names of the bodies
  • the name of the programme or scheme from which the funds are provided
  • the fund amounts

8. Finance summary

This table lists the total eligible project costs by organisation. Please note that only certain project costs are eligible for grant funding under UK state aid rules. See our project costs guidance for information on eligible project costs and how to complete the project finance form.

Column 1
Organisation name
Provide the full names of the lead organisation followed by any other organisations in the project consortium (organisation names as noted in Companies House).
Column 2
Organisation registration number
Organisations should provide the Company Registration Number (as noted in Companies House). Universities/HEIs should enter their RC number/charitable status/legal entity registration number etc.
Column 3
Enterprise category
Select your enterprise category. SME definition is based on the EU definition
Medium sized: Headcount less than 250: Turnover less than 50 million euros or balance sheet total less than 43 million euros
Small: Headcount less than 50: Turnover less than 10 million euros or balance sheet total less than 10 million euros
Micro: Headcount less than 10: Turnover less than 2 million euros or balance sheet total less than 2 million euros
Column 4
Postcode where the majority of work will be done
Provide the postcode where the majority of work will take place for each organisation participating in the project.
Column 5
Contribution to the project by each organisation (£)
List the total contribution to be made to the project by each organisation. Where a University is claiming grant funding, the contribution should be £0.
Column 6
Funding sought from Innovate UK
Enter the funding sought from Innovate UK for each contributing organisation for this competition.
Column 7
Other funding from public sector bodies
Include any funding applied for separately for the project from any other public sector bodies and not as part of this competition. Funding from other public sector bodies might include other applications to research councils, other government departments, devolved administrations, other public sector organisations and some charities. The purpose of this column is to provide Innovate UK with information on the total public funding for the project.
Column 8
Total (£)
The total cost of the project for each contributor. This is the sum of columns 5, 6 and 7 and will be entered automatically.
Bottom row
Total (£)
The total of each column will be entered automatically.

Please ensure that you click out of each cell after entering your figures.

9. Finance form

Each non-academic organisation in your project must provide a project finance form using the template project finance form which is available on the FTP site. This must be submitted in Excel format with the application form by the lead applicant. Each finance form provides a detailed breakdown on each organisation’s total eligible project costs. Please ensure that all total figures listed in your finance summary table match those stated in the form status tab within the project finance form.

10. Project appendices

You can only include appendices in support of questions 2 and 4 as described in the guidance for those questions. You may submit up to 4 A4 pages of supplementary documentation in total, including images, across 1 or more files. Submission of any additional appendices/documentation not described in this document will result in your application be judged as ineligible and not sent for assessment. Applications submitted with incorrect appendices, with regard to content or naming convention, will be ineligible and not sent for assessment.

In order that assessors can open and read the appendices, each appendix must:

  • conform to the maximum length specifications stated for each question
  • be submitted in pdf
  • be legible at 100% zoom/magnification
  • display prominently the ‘application number’ as in the filename of the application form for example, ‘AppendixQ2-(application number eg.123456)’

Please do not submit appendices longer than the specified lengths. Assessors are instructed to only read appendices to the lengths specified in the guidance.