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APC 17: Developing the UK’s low carbon automotive capability


UK-registered businesses can apply for a share of up to £27million for UK-developed late stage R&D, to support growth in advanced low carbon propulsion capability in the automotive sector.

The Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) invests up to £30million, three times a year, in collaborative research and development (R&D) projects. These are pre-production match-funded projects. In this round APC is investing £27million.

Your project must concentrate on the automotive market as its primary application.

APC 17 is looking for:

  • Projects that support the UK’s long-term capabilities through securing long-term R&D investment
  • Projects that can be achieved through its associated supply chain in the design, build and manufacture of zero tailpipe emission vehicles

Your project will preferably deliver both of these, to ensure the UK meets the future demand of vehicle-makers.

Innovate UK welcome projects which demonstrate a significant change in the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions and improvements in air quality compared to best in class. This can include technologies such as motors, batteries, power electronics, hybridisation and alternative propulsion systems.

This competition follows a two-stage process:

  1. Online application.
  2. Interviews for successful applicants from the first stage.

Your project’s total eligible costs must be between £5million and £40million and be a minimum of 50% match funded.

Open Date:


Close Date:


The aim of this competition is to seek proposals for collaborative R&D projects. These must demonstrate the development of on-vehicle technologies, (including material, product and manufacturing processes) for on or off-road vehicles.

Your project must either:

  • Accelerate the development of technologies capable of low and zero tailpipe emissions, considering their associated ‘cradle to grave’ supply chains, up to and including end of life
  • Or demonstrate a significant reduction in carbon dioxide emissions leading to air quality improvements

Your proposal must clearly align with the UK’s Industrial Strategy and must clearly demonstrate how high value R&D will take place in the UK as a result of this funding.

APC is particularly looking for projects that support the UK’s long-term supply chain, associated capabilities and growth aspirations. This includes improving productivity and competitiveness in the design, build and manufacture of vehicles that are capable of low and zero tailpipe emissions.

Technologies in scope are:

  • Motors
  • Batteries
  • Power electronics
  • Hybridisation
  • Alternative propulsion systems

Your project must support the growth of these technologies, creating more jobs and capability throughout the UK supply chain.

Your application should demonstrate a positive impact on the UK economy. This can include but are not limited to projects that will make a major investment in:

  • Creating new supply chains supporting the transition to electrification and zero emission vehicles
  • Adding resilience to existing supply chains under a variety of circumstances (where applicable) such as low, medium, high production, niche, off highway, commercial or volume passenger vehicles
  • The delivery of a UK centric high value manufacturing and sourcing footprint
  • Lowering the overall cost of goods sold to customers
  • Joining together (simplifying) less productive or mature elements of existing UK supply chain, leading to business efficiencies and helping to reduce uncertainty and risk
  • Recovering or reclaiming raw materials that can be used as new automotive product feedstock, resulting in improving the resilience and competitiveness of associated automotive supply chains.
  • Attracting new companies not traditionally delivering products, services or skills in automotive into the sector
  • Risk screening and due diligence to identify risks in the proposed supply chain developments
  • Improving the manufacturing readiness level (MRL) of your technology

Your project can either focus directly on improving the MRL, or it can create step changes in development processes, manufacturing processes or supply chain enhancements that will lead to an improved MRL.

Your application must show:

  • A clear route to market exploitation and have a consortium able to deliver this
  • The economic benefits of the project, such as new and safe-guarded jobs, new business activity, or an expansion of products and services
  • That the primary application of the project is for the automotive industry
  • How the project will support upskilling and knowledge sharing in the UK
  • That the project delivers impacts that would not be achieved in business as usual
  • What would happen to the project if funding is not successful and why the specific amount of funding is needed
  • How UK plc will benefit from any intellectual property generated by the project
  • That you will demonstrate the majority of the technologies in a system or major sub system in a vehicle representative environment

APC wants to fund a portfolio of projects, across the technologies listed in the specific themes section, and a variety of markets, technological maturities and research categories.

Innovate UK strongly encourage you to:

  • Demonstrate senior management commitment to the project and consortium
  • Ensure the consortium’s collaboration agreement is well advanced at the point of submission
  • Include the most important supply chain members in your consortium
  • Show how you will get disruptive technologies to market faster
  • Contact and work with organisations that are an important part of the supply chain but are not typically involved in R&D, such as tooling, manufacturing processes and materials
  • Focus on alternative propulsion systems which move the industry towards zero emissions, including hybridisation
  • Consider the possibility of technology transfer to and from other sectors into automotive
  • Focus on technologies that are identified in the Automotive Council’s roadmaps
  • Focus on lasting growth with the electric and electrified vehicle supply chain
  • Consider how to make results from this work public, where it helps share best practice while not damaging commercial interests

Read more about dissemination of your results in the Innovate UK funding rules.

APC will also consider projects that focus on the significant reduction of carbon dioxide or improvement of air quality from advanced internal combustion engines, especially those using clean fuels. Projects focusing solely on clean fuels are out of scope.

The UK is committed to deepening its supply chain presence for automotive, as described in the Industrial Strategy Automotive Sector Deal. For internal markets, this means supporting the industry’s ambition to increase the level of UK content by value in domestically built vehicles, to 50% by 2022.

Specific themes

Your project must focus on or relate to one or more of the following strategic technology themes. You must determine which technology or technologies best represent your project:

  • Alternative propulsion systems
  • Electric machines and power electronics
  • Energy storage and energy management
  • Lightweight vehicle and powertrain structures
  • Thermal propulsion systems that deliver substantial improvements
  • Significant reduction in vehicle development timescales
  • Using digitisation for development of low carbon vehicles

Your project must:

  • Have total eligible costs between £5million and £40million
  • Be a minimum of 50% match funded
  • Start on 1st April 2021
  • Last between 18 and 42 months

To lead a project your organisation must:

  • Be UK-registered business of any size
  • Have an active registered business base in the UK
  • Be a grant recipient
  • Include in your consortium a vehicle manufacturer or tier 1 supplier who supplies parts directly to an original equipment manufacturer (OEM)
  • Collaborate with others
  • Carry out its project work in the UK
  • Intend to exploit the results from or in the UK

Academic institutions and research organisations cannot lead projects.

To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must:

  • Involve at least one SME if the lead is not one
  • Be a UK-registered business of any size, academic institution or research and technology organisation (RTO)
  • Carry out its project work in the UK
  • Intend to exploit the results from or in the UK
  • Be invited by the lead organisation

Non-UK based businesses and research organisations are eligible to apply for funding if they:

  • Set up an active UK registered business base before they start their project, where the funded work will be carried out
  • Provide evidence that they intend to expand their R&D activity in the UK after the project

The lead and at least one other organisation must claim funding by entering their costs during the application.

Each partner organisation must be invited into the Innovation Funding Service by the lead to collaborate on a project. Partners must enter their own project costs during the application.

Your project can include partners that do not receive any of this competition’s funding, for example non-UK businesses. Their costs will count towards the total eligible project costs.

Subcontractors are allowed in this competition and must be selected through a participant’s normal procurement process. Subcontractors ca be from anywhere in the UK. If an overseas subcontractors is selected, a case must be made as to why no UK-based subcontractor can be used including a detailed rationale, evidence of UK companies that have been approached and reasons why they were unable to do so. A cheaper cost is not deemed as a sufficient reason to use an overseas subcontractor.

When a business leads on an application it can collaborate in a further two applications.

If a business is not leading any application, it can collaborate in up to three applications.

An academic institution can collaborate on any number of applications.

APC has allocated up to £27million to match fund innovation projects in this competition. Please note that projects over the quality threshold may be considered for funding through an alternative mechanism.

If your organisation’s work on the project is mostly commercial or economic, your funding request must not exceed the limits below. These limits apply even if your organisation normally acts non-economically.

The total grant request in your application cannot exceed 50% of the total eligible project costs, of which:

  • At least 70% must be incurred by commercial organisations
  • A maximum of 30% is available to research organisations undertaking non-economic activity, and if there is more than one research organisation undertaking non-economic activity, this amount will be shared between them

You must request the minimum amount of funding needed for your project.

The percentage of costs you can claim varies depending on:

  • The type of research you are carrying out
  • The type of organisations involved
  • The outcome of a value for money (VfM) economic assessment carried out by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)

For industrial research projects, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • Up to 70% if you are a micro or small organisation
  • Up to 60% if you are a medium-sized organisation
  • Up to 50% if you are a large organisation

The total grant funding limit for any individual organisation undertaking industrial research is 20 million euros. The exchange rate to sterling will be taken from the HMRC exchange rates at the time your contract is issued.

For experimental development projects which are nearer to market, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • Up to 45% if you are a micro or small organisation
  • Up to 35% if you are a medium-sized organisation
  • Up to 25% if you are a large organisation

The total grant funding limit for any individual organisation is undertaking experimental development 15 million euros. The exchange rate to sterling will be taken from the HMRC exchange rates at the time we issue your contract.

This competition provides state aid funding under article 25, ‘Aid for research and development projects’, of the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER). It is your responsibility to make sure your organisation is eligible to receive state aid.

A 3.5% levy is payable to the APC by all partners on grant received.

Innovate UK are not funding projects that focus only on the development of clean fuels.

Cresco Innovation works with companies to develop and implement innovation strategies. We help client companies identify opportunities to develop new products and services, and then create a package of support to ensure that the idea is turned into a commercial reality.

Our services include securing grants (as a team we have raised around £40million over three years), business planning, IP advice, access to finance and funders, project management and IP commercialisation support.

We regularly act as the interface with the funding bodies and help clients ensure that their projects are properly managed to ensure the best outcome for all.

Call to find out more

If you’d like to know more about this competition, please give us a call on 01509 261182 and one of our team will be delighted to help you access this funding opportunity for your business.