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Six UK SMEs funded for transport business innovation research in latest round of the Horizon 2020 SME Instrument

This month the European Commission’s Executive Agency for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (EASME) announced the latest recipients of funding awards for two ‘phases’ of the Horizon 2020 SME Instrument scheme, that in the Transport and Smart Cities Mobility topic, awarded €50,000 apiece to  five UK companies in phase 1 and, for phase 2, one award of just under €2.5 million to demonstrate lasER technology to monitor conditions at sea.

As part of the Horizon 2020 programme, the European Commission is funding potentially disruptive businesses through the SME Instrument, a fund to support SMEs with global ambitions that want to disrupt the established value networks and existing markets.

The instrument operates in three phases: Phase 1 - Concept & Feasibility Assessment - provides €50,000 to carry out a feasibility study to verify the viability of proposed disruptive innovations or concepts; Phase 2 - Demonstration, Market Replication, R&D - offers up to €2.5 million to further develop proposals through innovation activities, such as demonstration, testing, piloting, scaling up, and miniaturisation; and Phase 3 - Commercialisation - involves SMEs receiving support, training, mentorship and facilitating access to risk finance as projects are further polished into a marketable product.

Phase 1 and 2 has been operating through 2014 and 2015. For 2016 the total budget for Horizon 2020 Innovation in SMEs work programme is €353.4m (and €385.91m in 2017), and for Small business innovation research for Transport and Smart Cities Mobility topic the budgets are €57.57m and €61.23m, respectively.

The next cut off date for applying for Phase 1 is 3 May 2016, and there are two further deadlines in 2016. For Phase 2 the next cut off data is 14 April 2016. Full details are at the SME Participant Portal for the topic Small business innovation research for Transport and Smart Cities Mobility.


Phase 1 - 185 small and medium-sized enterprises from 26 countries selected for funding

185 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from 26 countries were selected for Phase 1 funding in the latest round of Horizon2020 SME Instrument, that had a cut-off date in November 2015.



The UK achieved the third highest number of successful awards in all topics for phase 1 awards (20) and the highest number 5 for phase 2 awards. For the Small business innovation research for Transport topic, the UK’s 5 awards in the phase 1 sections was second most behind the 8 awards for Italian SMEs.

The European Commission said it received 2057 proposals under Phase 1 by 25 November 2015, the fourth and last cut-off date for 2015. The 185 SMEs that will receive funds proposed 175 projects in total (multiple SMEs can be involved in one project). This brings the success rate of funded proposals up to 8.4%.

Most of the projects funded were in the area of low-carbon energy systems. It was closely followed by food production and processing and biomarkers and medical devices.

Spanish SMEs were particularly successful with 39 beneficiaries accepted for funding, followed by firms from Italy (37) and the UK (20). Since the launch of the programme on 1 January 2014, 1284 SMEs have been selected under Phase 1 of the SME Instrument.


Phase 1 UK beneficiaries for Small business innovation research for Transport

Of the Phase 1 beneficiaries the following are UK based and received awards of €50,000 in the topic of Small business innovation research for Transport:

CNG Fuels Ltd - Mother and Daughter CNG Station Concept

According to the project description, the EU is lagging the rest of the world in the adoption of natural gas as the only possible source of clean, cheap fuel for heavy transport applications.

Solihull based CNG Fuels has devised a concept for using high pressure gas grid connections to build Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) refuelling stations to produce the lower cost gas, with the lowest emissions profile, and more abundantly than other stations in Europe. It CNG Station in Leyland, is feeding a customer’s off grid 'daughter' station via CNG trailer.

However, it considers it could sell more gas to more fleets by focussing its high pressure 'mother' stations on the provision of very cheap gas to CNG trailers to fuel vehicles at 'daughter' stations, closer to depots or on the major transport routes.

CNG fuels intends to build stations that focus on fuelling large numbers of CNG trailers simultaneously. The improved economics of owning 'daughters', will, it hopes, rapidly boost the network effect, and the adoption rates of gas throughout Europe.


Eqipmake Ltd - HiPower

Eqipmake Ltd’s HiPower project will develop a commercial manufacturing process for a low cost, small footprint, high efficiency fully electric compressor and power controls to fulfil a market need for use in heavy goods vehicles

Norwich based Equipmake Ltd has a history of developing technologies for niche and specialist markets such as Formula 1. Increasing demand for electrification in the commercial vehicles (CV) sector, it claims, has created a market for its electric traction and ultra high speed motors to create a highly efficient electric compressor for the CV sector.

It added that legislation is creating an acute need and market pull among CV manufacturers for new solutions to meet emission targets. This need is most acute amongst Heavy Goods/Commercial Vehicle (HGV/HCV) manufacturers.

The HiPower project will address this market opportunity with tests showing that its 66% smaller, 66% lighter compressor which is 50% cheaper, can bring weight and cost savings to end users with a 22% increase in efficiency compared to competing solutions. Calculations show that HiPower will create savings of 9,413 kg CO2 HGV/annum in conventional diesel engines and 1,552 kG CO2/bus/annum on electric buses in addition to the €5.9k saving on battery cost over normal compressors.

Equipmake will create market entry in the electric bus market and then the high volume HGV market.


Green Fuels Research Ltd - SABRE

Cheltenham based Green Fuels Research Ltd, a manufacturer of biodiesel processors, has received €50,000 for its business feasibility study, technical validation and real-world demonstration on Transforming the biodiesel industry to meet Europe’s need for sustainable aviation fuel.

Green Fuels Research states that aviation is the fastest growing transport modality worldwide, with an estimated annual growth of 4.5% until 2050, with a subsequent expected threefold increase in GHG emissions.

To tackle this, the aviation industry has set ambitious goals to reach carbon neutral growth by 2020 and to cut CO2 emissions by 50% by 2050. The progressive use of Biojet Fuel (BF) is stated as one of the most effective to tackle this, with clear targets already set globally. However, two issues hold back the development of the BF industry: 1) Cost: biojet fuels are currently around 3 times more expensive than fossil based kerosene. 2) Feedstock sustainability and availability: edible oils currently represent the most economically viable option as feedstock for BF production, but this raises strong concerns in terms of competition with food production.

Green Fuels Research has developed a technology for producing BF from biodiesel obtained from any raw material, including waste cooking oils and fats, through a process bolt-on to existing biodiesel production facilities.


ITRACTOR UK - Smart farmer’s assistant - iTractor

ITRACTOR UK is aiming for production start-up and market uptake of a ‘Hybrid smart robotized electric universal compact tractor - named iTractor’.

It is designed to work inside the farmyard or livestock farm.

The iTractor’s is equipped with sensors and visual vSLAM technology. It is a part of new navigation system with visual localization that allows iTractor to create a precise map of its own limited environment.


NedraEV - A lightweight, fast charging, EV platform to be utilised on Car Share and Urban Mobility Systems

Didcot based Nedra Ltd has been awarded €50,000 to study its concept for a lightweight, fast charging, EV platform to be utilised on Car Share and Urban Mobility Systems

Its concept is to create a family of novel, lightweight EVs, co-ordinating design, manufacture, supply and support service infrastructure, targeted at producing zero emission city mobility for co-ordinated hire schemes, transportation networks, taxi or private individual transport.

The purpose of the feasibility study is to confirm some of the assumptions regarding the market, identify further key suppliers and partners, and establish the product legislative and compliance needs.


Phase 2 - EU invests €48.6 million in 45 innovative companies under the SME Instrument

On 18 February EASME announced that 45 small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from 19 countries had been selected in the latest round of Horizon2020 SME Instrument Phase 2.

Each project, 30 in total, will receive between €0.5 and €2.5 million (€5 million for health projects) to bring their product from pilot-phase to the market.

The European Commission received 1090 project proposals under Phase 2 by the fourth and last cut-off date for 2015 on 25 November. British SMEs were the most successful with seven beneficiaries, who will receive €10 million in total, closely followed by six Italian SMEs who will share €4.3 million.

Since the launch of the programme on 1 January 2014, 356 SMEs have been selected under Phase 2 of the SME Instrument.

This funding allows companies to invest in innovation activities such as demonstration, testing, scaling up and miniaturisation, in addition to developing a mature business plan for their product. The companies will also benefit from 12 days of business coaching. Most projects are proposed by a single SME but some companies team up in a project.


UK beneficiaries in Phase 2 for small business innovation research for Small business innovation research for Transport

There was one UK Phase 2 beneficiary for the November 2015 deadline in the Small business innovation research for Transport topic:

SMARTER-2 - Surveillance of MARiTime surroundings through lasER technology

Macclesfield based Global Maritime Services has been awarded €2,499,984 to develop a business case for its Surveillance of Maritime Surroundings through Laser Technology concept, that was developed wit the assistance of €50,000 in 2014 under IT-1-2014-1 - Small business innovation research for Transport.

The project involves developing business case for a prototype Ladar sensor that has been demonstrated to be able to survey and monitor the surface layer surroundings of vessels, platforms and coastal infrastructures. This enables enhanced safety, security, environmental monitoring and reduced operational risks.

The ownership of the sensor prototypes (and its related IPR) has been spun-off to a separate entity (named Ladar Ltd) – a subsidiary of G.M.S. Global Maritime Services Ltd.

Accordion to the project description, contact and collision incidences are now the most increasing, most frequent and overall the most costly type of accidents in the maritime transport sector, representing 40% of yearly insurance claims and force 1 out of 10 ships to an unplanned dry dock every year costing on average €400,000 per incident. Semi and fully submerged objects are particularly causing havoc to shipping and offshore platforms because they go undetected by state-of-the-art sensors (radars, sonars, optical sensors) presenting an acute need for improved observation capability of the ocean surface layer.

These incidents can be reduced by an appropriate observational sensor like a ladar. It can detect for example drifting growlers (ice floes) or floating containers ahead of a vessel, preventing damaging collisions. The information that the sensor collects can also be directly used for operators to reduce operational cost, for example by accurately observing the sea state as to optimize sail plan models and vessel trim for fuel and emission savings. Such benefits have value for the operators, allowing them to purchase a relatively low cost sensor compared to the costs of an offshore or maritime incident. Moreover, the ladar is claimed to be complementary to radar, sonar, and other maritime sensors. It would therefore fill a market gap rather than outcompeting existing sensor technologies.

The beneficiary SME companies are Ladar Ltd and Offshore Monitoring of Limassol, Cyprus.

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