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Circular economy for SMEs – innovating with the NICER programme

Overview:

UK-registered businesses can apply for a share of up to £1million to research, test and develop step-change circular economy approaches.

Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, will invest up to £1million in circular economy innovation projects.

This funding forms part of the UKRI National Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Research programme (NICER), enabling SMEs to engage with and benefit from access to expertise at five research centres via collaborative research and development (CR&D) activities.

The aim of this competition is to support feasibility studies, industrial research and experimental development that address the challenges of transitioning to a circular economy.

Your proposal must demonstrate how you will create a step-change in the adoption of circular economy approaches.

Your project’s total eligible costs must be between £50,000 and £100,000.

Open Date:

11/10/2021

Close Date:

08/12/2021

The aim of this competition is to support feasibility studies, industrial research and experimental development projects that address the challenges of transitioning to a circular economy.

Your project must demonstrate how you will create a step-change in the adoption of circular economy approaches.

The broad spectrum of circular economy approaches will be in scope, for example:

  • Repair
  • Reuse
  • Remanufacture
  • Recycle
  • Regeneration

Projects are particularly encouraged that focus on retaining the maximum amount of value in a product or system.

Innovate UK aim to fund projects with direct or indirect commercial outcomes for the partners. For example, a project to improve understanding where the outputs would be made freely available to build the knowledge base of the broader NICER programme, would be in scope.

Innovate UK want to fund a portfolio of projects, across the range of resource flows covered by the Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Centres and types of projects.

Applicants must consider the benefits, risks, costs and trade-offs associated with adopting a more circular approach.

The focus on circular economy in this competition does not assume how best to deliver environmental, social, cultural, economic and technical benefits for any particular resource flow.

Your project can focus on one or more of the following examples:

  • Piloting the introduction of a circular economy business model
  • Development or improvement of products and processes to enable remanufacturing, repair and retention of value
  • Increasing understanding and exploitation of material flow data in a defined place (for example; city, Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP), cluster, region)
  • Scaling-up of credible circular economy feasibility studies
  • Evaluating whether proposed circular economy approaches are more sustainable when considering broader life cycle thinking

Other focus areas that clearly address the challenges of transitioning to a circular economy are welcomed.

Specific themes

Your project must align with at least one of the resource flows covered by the Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Centres:

Your project must:

  • Have total eligible costs between £50,000 and £100,000
  • Start no earlier than 1 April 2022
  • End by 31 March 2023
  • Last between nine and 12 months
  • Carry out all of its project work in the UK
  • Intend to exploit the results from or in the UK

You must either include at least one of the UKRI Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Centres as a project partner, or include a letter of support from one of the centres. The letters must demonstrate alignment of the proposed activities to one or more Centres’ aims and objectives.

To lead a project or work alone, your organisation must be a UK registered micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) business.

Academic institutions cannot lead or work alone.

To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must be one of the following UK registered:

  • Business of any size
  • Academic institution
  • Charity
  • Not-for-profit
  • Public sector organisation
  • Research and technology organisation (RTO)

Each partner organisation must be invited into the Innovation Funding Service by the lead to collaborate on a project. Once accepted, partners will be asked to login or to create an account and enter their own project costs into the Innovation Funding Service.

If part of a collaboration, the lead and at least one other organisation must claim funding by entering their 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

Subcontractors are allowed in this competition.

Subcontractors can be from anywhere in the UK and you must select them through your usual procurement process.

You can use subcontractors from overseas but must make the case in your application as to why you could not use suppliers from the UK.

You must also provide a detailed rationale, evidence of the potential UK contractors you approached and the reasons why they were unable to work with you.

Innovate UK expect all subcontractor costs to be justified and appropriate to the total eligible project costs. Innovate UK will not accept a cheaper cost as a sufficient reason to use an overseas subcontractor.

Number of applications

A business can only lead on one application but can be included as a collaborator in a further two applications.

An academic institution, charity, not-for-profit, public sector organisation or RTO can collaborate on any number of applications.

Previous applications

You can use a previously submitted application to apply for this competition.

Innovate UK will not award you funding if you have:

Subsidy control (and State aid where applicable)

This competition provides funding in line with the UK’s obligations and commitments to Subsidy Control. Further information about the UK Subsidy Control requirements can be found within the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation agreement and the subsequent guidance from the department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

Innovate UK is unable to award organisations that are considered to be in financial difficulty. Innovate UK will conduct financial viability and eligibility tests to confirm this is not the case following the application stage.

EU State aid rules now only apply in limited circumstances. Please see the general guidance to check if these rules apply to your organisation.

Further Information

If you are unsure about your obligations under the UK Subsidy Control regime or the State aid rules, you should take independent legal advice. Innovate UK are unable to advise on individual eligibility or legal obligations.

You must make sure at all times that the funding awarded to you is compliant with all current Subsidy Control legislation applicable in the United Kingdom.

This aims to regulate any advantage granted by a public sector body which threatens to or actually distorts competition in the United Kingdom or any other country or countries.

If there are any changes to the above requirements that mean Innovate UK need to change the terms of this competition, they will tell you as soon as possible.

Innovate UK have allocated up to £1million to fund innovation projects in this competition.

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

For feasibility studies and 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

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

NICER Centre academic partners can apply for funding for activities or additional resources and materials that are essential to the project achieving its full potential. These costs must be eligible project costs which have not been supported by UKRI funds already awarded.

For more information on company sizes, please refer to the company accounts guidance. This is a change from the EU definition unless you are applying under State aid.

If you are applying for an award funded under State aid Regulations, the definitions are set out in the European Commission Recommendation of 6 May 2003.

Research participation

The research organisations undertaking non-economic activity as part of the project can share up to 30% of the total eligible project costs. If your consortium contains more than one research organisation undertaking non-economic activity, this maximum is shared between them.

Of that 30% you could get funding for your eligible project costs of up to:

  • 80% of full economic costs (FEC) if you are a Je-s registered institution such as an academic
  • 100% of your eligible project costs if you are an RTO, charity, non-profit organisation, public sector organisation or research organisation

Innovate UK are not funding projects that are:

  • Dependent on export performance – for example giving a subsidy to a baker on the condition that it exports a certain quantity of bread to another country
  • Dependent on domestic inputs usage – for example giving a subsidy to a baker on the condition that it uses 50% UK flour in their product

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.