Innovate UK has announced the opening of its Manufacturing and materials competition, offering support totalling up to £15 million for manufacturing and materials projects that could lead to increased productivity, competitiveness and growth, especially for SMEs.
The type of projects Innovate UK seeks to support are those that focus on technical feasibility, industrial research or experimental development, depending on the nature of the challenge faced by business looking for funding.
Background to the competition
Innovate UK forecasts strong growth in markets such as automotive, food and drink, pharmaceuticals, aerospace and off-site construction, for which innovations in manufacturing and materials could provide UK businesses with ways to differentiate products and services and so gain competitive advantage.
Opportunities could be produced from, for instance, more resource-efficient processes, customisation of products, diversification of product and service lines and novel services that open up new sources of revenue from manufacturing.
CBI analysis suggests that if UK manufacturing supply chains are boosted in this way, they could contribute an extra £30 billion to the economy by 2025, and create around 500,000 extra jobs.
In the UK, manufacturing accounts for 10.3% of UK GVA, 8% of jobs, over 50% of exports and 69% of business R&D. Raw materials and processing represent approximately 40% of the costs for manufacturing businesses.
However, Innovate UK considers that innovation is required to increase productivity, material efficiency and competitiveness into the long term.
As outlined in Innovate UK’s Delivery Plan 2016 to 2017, its Manufacturing and Materials sector group’s focus this year is on the development, validation and application of cross-cutting manufacturing and materials technologies and processes to drive productivity and growth.
Among activities planned are competitions themed in areas of Additive Manufacturing, Manufacturing Readiness, and Manufacturing and Materials.
Materials innovations for manufacturing productivity, material efficiency and competitiveness
According to Innovate UK, new ideas are required to increase UK manufacturing productivity, material efficiency and competitiveness into the long term. Suggested sources of such innovation could arise from:
addressing manufacturing readiness of growing sectors
developing more flexible or efficient processes
greater customisation of products to fit consumer needs
diversification of product and service lines to serve new markets
development of novel services for new sources of revenue from manufacturing
To be in scope, a project must cover one of the following areas:
innovation in a manufacturing system, technology, process or business model. For example, in process engineering, industrial biotechnology, mechanical conversion processes, coatings, textiles, supply chain management, new product introduction processes or remanufacture
innovation in materials development, properties, integration or reuse. For example, for light-weighting, energy generation and storage (such as heat and electricity), electronics/sensors or for operation in demanding environments. For the purposes of this competition, materials include, but are not limited to, nano-materials, ceramics, metals and inter-metallics, polymers, composites, coatings, smart materials and joining of dissimilar materials
Proposals should aim to enable a step-change in productivity and competitiveness for at least one UK SME involved in the project. The focus of the project must be on manufacturing or materials developments that have cross-sector applicability.
For this competition competition, Innovate UK is encouraging applications featuring:
novel application of a digital technologies or approach to manufacturing or materials development (such as automation, modelling and simulation, data analysis)
design for manufacture, use and end-of-life
Projects with costs of up to £100k, or up to £2m
Projects need to be led by a business and must involve at least one SME. They can be carried out by an SME working alone or in collaboration with other organisations.
Stream 1: Projects with total eligible project costs of up to £100k and 12 months or less in duration
Stream 2: Projects with total eligible project costs of up to £2 million or between 12 and 36 months in duration.
The competition is open to all UK businesses. Projects of over £100k must be collaborative.
Innovate UK is looking for projects which focus on any of the technical feasibility, industrial research or experimental development research categories.
Projects should last between 6 months and 3 years, and should range from total costs of £50,000 to £2 million.