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Innovation in time dissemination and application


UK-registered organisations can apply for a share of up to £2million for business-led innovation in resilient time, frequency and synchronisation. This funding is from the Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF).

Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, is working with the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) to invest up to £2million in feasibility studies for innovation in the dissemination and application of resilient time, frequency and synchronisation (TFS).

The key areas for development are:

  • Distribution
  • Trust, assurance and security
  • Resilience

The aim of this competition is to:

  • Support and enable business-led innovation across the UK supply chain in resilient TFS for the development of products, services and end user applications
  • Develop a TFS ecosystem and capability for relevant industries and critical national infrastructure
  • Disrupt and create new markets to improve the provision of TFS

Your proposal must deliver a feasibility study for an innovative development and demonstrate a route to market.

This is the first of two associated competitions funded from the Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF) as part of the National Timing Centre programme, led by NPL. The total programme budget for funding business-led innovation is £6.7million. The second competition will offer the opportunity for demonstration projects.

Your project’s total eligible costs must be between £50,000 and £250,000.

Open Date:


Close Date:


The aim of this competition is to:

  • Support and enable industry-led innovation across the UK supply chain in resilient time, frequency, and synchronisation (TFS), for the development of products, services, and end user applications
  • Develop a TFS ecosystem and capability for relevant industries and critical national infrastructure
  • Disrupt and create new markets to improve the provision of TFS

Your project must deliver a feasibility study for an innovative development and demonstrate a route to market.

Projects must be focused on one or more of these development areas relating to the dissemination of TFS:

  • Products
  • Services
  • Protocols and algorithms
  • Standards

Innovate UK are looking for your projects to be scalable, geographically or across applications.

Your project should lead to the following types of impact for the UK:

  • Economic, including new revenue, cost savings, other economic impacts
  • National capability in TFS

During the project, NPL can provide up to 12 hours of free consultancy and free access to highly accurate and traceable time and frequency signals from four locations in the south-east of England. These include an experimental test facility and validation and characterisation capabilities.

Projects that include one or more industry sectors are of interest.

Example sectors include but are not limited to, telecommunications, energy, autonomy, finance, smart factories, sensors, the Internet of Things (IoT), broadcast, health, space, and transport including rail, road, aviation, maritime.

Projects involving cross-sector technologies such as those contributing to telecommunication technologies or timing over digital networks are of particular interest.

Innovate UK reserve the right to apply a portfolio approach to funding projects across the themes.

Specific themes

Your project must focus on one or more of the following themes:


Your project must enable end users to have access to improved time or frequency signals.

You must include one or more of the following:

  • Dissemination to multiple users
  • Scalability
  • Accessibility (geography)
  • Ubiquity and availability, including rural and GNSS denied locations

For example, developments could include scalability to users at the edge of networks or to those currently without access.

Trust, assurance and security

Your project must contribute to the trust, assurance and security of time or frequency signals from the source to the end user (or a defined subset of this path).

You must include one or more of the following:

  • Integrity
  • Accuracy (absolute time value at the end user compared to the traceable source)
  • Confidence in end-to-end transmission
  • Validation

This could, for example, relate to audit and certification of time signals at various levels of accuracy or signal integrity when transferring time signals over distances and mediums. Algorithms and protocols, especially those that increase the integrity of timing signals, are also in scope.


Your project must contribute to the resilience of the time dissemination supply chain in one or more of the following:

  • Availability (continuity of signal)
  • Redundancy and holdover
  • Alerting and monitoring

Your project must:

  • Have total eligible costs between £50,000 and £250,000
  • End by 31 May 2022
  • Last between four and six months

Projects can start from 1 October 2021.

To lead a project or work alone, your organisation must:

  • Be a UK-registered business of any size
  • If collaborative, partner with other UK-registered businesses, research organisations, research and technology organisations (RTO), academic institutions, public sector organisations or charities
  • 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 or work alone.

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.

Project team

To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must:

  • Be a UK-registered business, research organisation, research and technology organisation (RTO), academic institution, public sector organisation or charity
  • Carry out its project work in the UK
  • Intend to exploit the results from or in the UK

If collaborating, 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. Once accepted, partners will be asked to log in or to create an account and enter their own project costs into the Innovation Funding Service.

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. 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 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.

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

Research organisations 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.

European Commission State aid

You must apply under European Commission State aid rules if you are an applicant who is conducting activities that will affect trade of goods and electricity between Northern Ireland and the EU as envisaged by Article 10 of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland in the EU Withdrawal Agreement.

In certain limited circumstances, the European Commission State aid rules may also apply if you are an organisation located in England, Wales, or Scotland and conduct activities that affect the trade of goods and electricity between Northern Ireland and the EU. For further information, please see section 7 of the BEIS technical guidance.

For further information see the general guidance on state aid and BEIS guidance on the Northern Ireland Protocol.

For applicants subject to the European Commission State aid rules, applicants will be required to prove that they were not an “Undertaking in Difficulty” on the date of 31 December 2019 but became a UID between 1 January 2020 and 30 June 2021. Innovate UK will ask for evidence of this.

Further Information

If you are unsure about your obligations under the UK Subsidy Control regime or the State aid rules, please take independent legal advice.

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 £2million to fund innovation projects in this competition.

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.

For feasibility studies, 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 research organisations undertaking non-economic activity as part of the project can share up to 50% 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.

Innovate UK are not funding projects that are:

  • Exclusively related to atomic clock development
  • Exclusively related to the Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS)
  • Dependent on export performance – for example giving a subsidy to a baker on the condition that they export a certain quantity of bread to another country
  • Dependent on domestic inputs usage – for example if it was insisted that a baker use 50% UK flour in their product

Projects which involve the integration of atomic clocks or GNSS into timing systems would be in scope.

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.