Emerging and enabling technologies – round 3


Innovate UK will invest up to £25 million in innovation projects that inspire new products and services.

The aim of this competition is to help UK businesses broaden their innovation activities, disrupt existing markets and find revenue sources from new products, processes or services.

Projects must show significant innovation in one of the four priority areas of Innovate UK’s emerging and enabling technologies programme, which are:

  • Emerging technologies
  • Digital
  • Enabling capabilities, including electronics, sensors and photonics (ESP), robotics and autonomous systems (RAS), creative economy and design
  • Space applications

Projects will range in size from total project costs of £35,000 to £2 million. Projects must last between 3 months and 3 years.

There is funding available of up to:

  • £5 million for projects that have eligible costs of up to £100,000 and last between 3 and 12 months
  • £10 million for projects that have eligible costs of up to £2 million and last between 1 and 3 years
  • £10 million for Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs)

(Please check full details at the Innovate UK website, via the link below, to confirm eligibility.)


To be considered, proposals must:

  • show significant innovation in one of Innovate UK’s priority areas (described further in the ‘Specific competition themes’ section)
  • have outputs that can be applied in more than one industry, sector or market
  • improve business growth or productivity, or create export opportunities for at least one UK SME involved in the project

Where possible, all projects should take customer or user needs into account. Projects costing more than £500,000 and lasting two years or longer: if these projects do not demonstrate an understanding of the customer or user needs, they must include this as a human-centred design element within the first six months of the project.

To carry out human-centred design you should:

  • investigate the needs of important stakeholders (such as potential customers, end users, investors or delivery partners)
  • use that research to agree on the criteria for measuring success
  • explore and test possible solutions to the needs of the stakeholders, and agree on the best investment-ready idea

Where applicable, please consider the cybersecurity implications in your proposal.

Innovate UK are looking to fund a portfolio of projects, across different technologies, different markets and different technology maturities. These may include technical feasibility, industrial research or experimental development.

Specific competition themes:

There are 4 themes for this competition.

1. Emerging technologies

An emerging technology is one that is still developing from, or has only recently developed from, the research base. It allows you to do something that was impossible or only theoretical before. That means it disrupts existing markets and gives us new ways to improve our lives and generate wealth.

Your project must lead to a significant change in business performance and bring a totally new technology to market. We are particularly eager to fund projects in:

  • biofilms: advancing the understanding of biofilm management, control or exploitation, or applying biofilm to novel industrial applications
  • energy harvesting: scavenging energy from external sources for small portable devices. (We will not fund energy efficient products, applications that use harvested energy or utility scale energy production in this competition)
  • graphene: seeking to develop and exploit the principal properties of graphene and its utility (not simply screening graphene against numerous other materials)
  • cutting-edge imaging: technologies not in commercial use (not new applications of existing technology)

2. Digital

You must demonstrate a significant development in, or use of, one or more of the following technologies:

  • machine learning and AI
  • cybersecurity
  • data analytics or ‘big data’
  • distributed ledger technology, such as blockchain
  • the internet of things
  • immersive media, such as virtual or augmented reality
  • 5G: innovative applications and services using enhanced mobile broadband, ultra-reliability, low latency or massive machine type communications

3. Enabling capabilities

Electronics, sensors and photonics (ESP)

You must propose an innovative project from across the range of ESP technologies, including:

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

Robotics and autonomous systems

We are looking for proposals that provide significant improvements on system abilities in:

  • robotics for professional or personal service applications
  • robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) for inspection and maintenance
  • health and social care, including assistive technologies, patient care and robotic surgery
  • next generation farming
  • next generation and SME manufacturing
  • autonomous transport, including automotive, aerospace and rail applications
  • AI technologies for autonomous systems

Creative economy

We are looking for innovative projects that provide a significant improvement in efficiency or user experience in the creative industries.

4. Space applications

We are looking for innovations in commercially exploitable applications of satellite data or signals. We welcome applicants from all specialisms. Innovations must involve, or relate to, the use of one or more of the following technologies:

  • satellite communications. These must be new services or applications that use satellite communications infrastructure or innovations related to the ground segment and user terminals. One area of interest is in innovations that will strengthen satellite industry links with other telecommunications sectors, including 5G
  • satellite positioning, navigation and timing. These must be new services or applications that use GNSS (global navigation satellite system). We are also interested in innovations that address the challenges of a disruption to GNSS (technologies that protect systems using GNSS against its loss are regarded as eligible)
  • earth observation. These must be new services or applications using existing satellite infrastructure or technology that directly links to the provision of new commercial services

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 that uses satellite data or signals.

(Please check full details at the Innovate UK website, via the link below, to check technology definitions.)

Key Dates:

Competition opens – 5 September 2017

Briefing event in London- 13 September 2017 (Click here to for more details), with region brokerage events to follow.

Competition closes – 8 November 2017 12:00pm

Applicants notified – 26 January 2018

If you are interested in this competition?

Please email the Innovation SuperNetwork team at angela@supernetwork.org.uk or complete the form below so we can help you and guide you through the application process.

(Direct links – please cut and paste into browser: https://apply-for-innovation-funding.service.gov.uk/competition/42/overview)

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Our work is only possible with the support of our local and national partners, including Innovate UK, the Knowledge Transfer Network, the North East LEP, Northumbrian WaterNorth East BICReece Innovation and ENGIE with part funding from the European Regional Development Fund.
Huge thanks go to all our partners.