With green technologies and sustainability high on the agenda in the wake of COP-26 and the October Spending Review, Innovate UK (part of UK Research and Innovation) is investing up to £20 million to help companies and researchers reduce the environmental impact of manufacturing.

The aim of the new competition, which is now live, is to develop digital innovations that improve the sustainability of manufacturing processes, either by reducing materials usage or energy consumption. 

For example, solutions could use data to better sequence or schedule manufacturing processes to reduce consumption. Alternatively, they could improve waste materials separation to facilitate their reuse.

Accordingly, Innovate UK is inviting proposals within two strands: innovations in manufacturing data (Strand 1) and processes (Strand 2).

To apply, projects must meet the following criteria:

  • Have total eligible costs between £1 million and £8 million
  • Not exceed the maximum grant limit of 50 percent of your total eligible costs for Strand 1
  • Or not exceed the maximum grant limit of 40 percent of your total eligible costs for Strand 2
  • Begin by 1 September 2022
  • Last between one and two years
  • Involve a single factory or multiple factories
  • Include both manufacturing and digital technology capabilities in your consortium
  • Be applicable to at least one manufacturing sector
  • Carry out all its project work in the UK
  • Intend to exploit the results from or in the UK.

Innovate UK is especially keen to encourage projects that cover multiple manufacturing sectors, in line with its aim to foster cross-cutting innovations that have the greatest commercial potential.

To lead a project, an organisation must be a UK-registered business and collaborate with other UK-registered organisations – involving at least one small or medium-sized enterprise (SME).

A business can lead on a maximum of two applications within the competition but can be included as a collaborator in up to two more.

To collaborate with the lead, partner organisations must be a UK-registered business, academic institution, charity, non-profit, public-sector organisation, or research and technology organisation (RTO).

If a business is not leading a project, it can collaborate in up to four applications within the competition, while research organisations can collaborate on any number.

Registration is open now and closes on 26 January 2022.