Competition brief: emerging and enabling technologies round 2

Updated 3 May 2017

1. Dates and deadlines

Competition opens Midday on Monday 6 March 2017
Briefing event for applicants Wednesday 8 March 2017 in London
Brokerage events Belfast: Monday 13 March 2017
  Edinburgh: Tuesday 14 March 2017
  Cardiff: Thursday 16 March 2017
  Manchester: Thursday 23 March 2017
Registration deadline Midday on Wednesday 3 May 2017
Application deadline Midday on Wednesday 10 May 2017

2. The competition scope

Our emerging and enabling technologies programme identifies and invests in new technologies and the underpinning capabilities that improve existing industries. Our aim is to inspire the products, processes and services of tomorrow: those with the potential to unlock billions of pounds of value to industry and disrupt existing markets.

We have 4 priority areas:

  • emerging technologies
  • digital
  • enabling capabilities, including electronics, sensors and photonics (ESPs), robotics and autonomous systems, and creative economy
  • space applications

This competition should help businesses broaden out innovation activities to find sources of revenue from new products, processes or services.

We are looking to fund projects that meet all of the following criteria. Proposals must:

  • show significant innovation in one of our priority areas (described further in the next section)
  • show outputs that could be applied in more than one industry, sector or market
  • improve business growth, productivity and/or create export opportunities for at least one UK SME involved in the project

Projects costing more than £500,000 and lasting 2 years or longer should demonstrate a current understanding of the challenge being addressed and the needs of customers or users. Otherwise, such activities should be included in the first 6 months of the project.

Where applicable, please consider the cybersecurity implications of your solution.

We are looking to fund a portfolio of projects. These may include technical feasibility, industrial research or experimental development.

3. Specific competition themes

3.1 Emerging technologies

An emerging technology is one that is still emerging from, or has only recently emerged from, the research base. It allows you to do something that was not possible before or was only possible in theory; because of this, it disrupts existing markets and leads to new ways of improving our lives as well as sources of wealth generation.

Applicants should be able to demonstrate a step change in performance and bring a totally new technology sector to market. We are particularly looking to fund projects in:

  • biofilms
  • energy harvesting
  • graphene and novel single-layer (2D) materials
  • cutting-edge imaging technologies
  • unconventional new computational paradigms such as biological computing

3.2 Digital

Applicants should be able to demonstrate a significant development in, or use of, one or more of the following technologies:

  • machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI)
  • cybersecurity
  • data analytics or ‘big data’
  • distributed ledger technology (such as blockchain)
  • internet of things
  • immersive technology (such as virtual or augmented reality)
  • innovative services or applications employing new forms of connectivity, including 5G

3.3 Enabling capabilities

Electronics, sensors and photonics (ESP)

Applications for highly innovative projects are welcome from across the range of ESP technologies. This includes:

  • electronic systems
  • large area electronics
  • power electronics
  • sensor systems
  • photonics
  • compound semiconductors

Robotics and autonomous systems

We are looking for innovations in the following areas:

  • service robotics for professional or personal applications
  • inspection and maintenance in extreme and challenging (hazardous) environments
  • health and social care, including assistive technologies, patient care and robotic surgery
  • next-generation farming
  • next-generation manufacturing
  • autonomous transport, including automotive, aerospace and rail applications
  • AI technologies for autonomous systems

Creative economy

We are looking for innovations in the following areas:

  • enabling higher-quality, faster and more cost-effective creation, manipulation and/or consumption of ‘real time’ creative content
  • creating richer and more engaging user experiences on new innovative platforms, such as virtual reality

3.4 Space applications

Proposals must have innovations in at least one of the following areas:

  • satellite communications, such as new services or applications using satellite communications infrastructure. We are particularly interested in innovations related to ground segment and user terminals for telecommunications
  • satellite navigation, such as new services or applications using global navigation satellite system (GNSS) infrastructure. We are particularly interested in innovations that combine GNSS data with other forms of sensor data to deliver sensor fusion or hybrid systems
  • earth observation and environmental monitoring services, such as new services or applications using existing satellite infrastructure or technology that directly links to new commercial service provision
  • market or technical feasibility projects that will lead to future in-orbit service demonstrations

Projects that include development of new satellite instruments or hardware are eligible so long as they have a clear path to exploitation as part of a service or application.

4. Projects that we won’t fund

In this competition we will not fund:

5. Find out if you are eligible to apply

To be eligible you must:

  • be a UK-based business of any size or research and technology organisation (RTO) working within the limits provided in the general guidance for applicants
  • have at least one SME involved in your proposal
  • carry out your project work, and intend to exploit the results, in the UK

RTOs may lead a project, providing:

  • they are able to articulate clearly why the RTO, and not one of the business participants, should lead the project
  • they collaborate in the project with at least 2 or more businesses (one must be an SME)
  • their involvement is no greater than 30% of the total eligible project costs
  • the project shows a compelling route to market, most likely through the non-lead partners

If total project costs are between £35,000 and £100,000, an SME can work on the project alone or with partners.

If total project costs are £100,000 or more, the project must include at least 2 grant-claiming partners working together.

6. Funding and project details

We have allocated up to £15 million to fund innovation projects in this competition.

All projects must involve at least one SME. A business or RTO must lead the project.

Projects should last between 6 months and 3 years. We expect projects to range in total costs between £35,000 and £2 million.

6.1 Project types

Your project may focus on technical feasibility, industrial research or experimental development.

For technical feasibility studies and industrial research, you could receive:

  • up to 70% of your eligible project costs if you are a small business
  • up to 60% if you are a medium-sized business
  • up to 50% if you are a large business

For experimental development projects that are nearer to market, you could receive:

  • up to 45% of your eligible project costs if you are a small business
  • up to 35% if you are a medium-sized business
  • up to 25% if you are a large business

Find out if your business fits the EU definition of an SME.

For more information on the research categories, read the general guidance for applicants.

6.2 Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs)

In parallel to this competition, we also welcome applications for KTPs. KTP applications have the same competition deadlines. However, KTP applications should follow the specific guidance for KTPs.

The scope criteria is different for KTPs. We are accepting applications across our 4 priority areas:

  • emerging technologies
  • digital
  • enabling capabilities (including ESPs, robotics and autonomous systems and creative economy)
  • space applications.

7. How to apply

To apply:

  • register online
  • read the guidance for applicants for this competition
  • watch the briefing webinar recording (optional)
  • attend one of the brokerage events (optional)
  • complete and upload your online application form on our secure server

We will not accept late submissions. Your application is confidential.

External, independent experts assess the quality your application. We will then select the projects that we fund, to build a portfolio of projects as described in the competition guidance for applicants.

Please read the general guidance for applicants carefully before you apply. It will help your chances of submitting a quality application

8. Background and further information

Technology is transforming our lives and brings great opportunity. The UK is strong in fundamental research across many different disciplines. However, we sometimes struggle to fully commercialise these opportunities. The most promising emerging technologies and industries need to be guided through the innovation process to market success.

The government’s emerging technologies and industries strategy aims to provide investment to help companies explore the potential of transformative early-stage, new technologies in their particular markets. The strategy aims to disrupt markets and bring the potential for significant commercial results. This includes where small early investments are followed by increased financial and wider support.

Enabling technologies or capabilities have the potential to make a difference in many sectors. Yet, they can be slow to spread through target industries. They need support and tailoring to realise that potential. The emerging and enabling technologies programme brings together technology and end users to enhance productivity and efficiency across the UK economy. The programme provides opportunities for innovative companies to develop and use multiple technologies. Applications include disrupting markets and finding new sales routes. This could be through well-established systems integrators and manufacturers.

The emerging and enabling technologies sector group supports the Digital Catapult and Satellite Application and is establishing a new Compound Semiconductor Applications Catapult in Wales. Companies wishing to access the available equipment and expertise are invited to partner with the Catapults in this competition.

If you want help to find a project partner, contact the Knowledge Transfer Network. If you need more information, contact the competition helpline on 0300 321 4357 or email us at