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ISCF Future Plastic Packaging Solutions


UK-registered businesses can apply for a share of up to £2million for early-stage projects in smart and sustainable plastic packaging. This funding is from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, will invest up to £2million from the Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging Programme for early-stage projects.

The Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging (SSPP) Challenge aims to establish the UK as a leading innovator in smart and sustainable plastic packaging for consumer products. Its goals are to deliver cleaner growth across the supply chain, with a dramatic reduction in plastic waste entering the environment by 2025.

Your project must aim to:

  • Help make the plastics packaging supply chain more circular
  • Deliver the targets of the UK Plastics Pact improve on current state-of-the-art plastic packaging, or supply chain data
  • Embed life cycle thinking and end of life in packaging design and decisions

Your project must:

  • Demonstrate how it supports the objectives of the plastics pact and delivers systemic change
  • Clearly explain how you will reduce the UK plastic packaging system’s overall environmental impact

Your project must contribute to meeting the SSPP Challenge objectives, but Innovate UK will fund projects that do not seek direct commercial output or financial value.

Beneficial information and outputs delivered by such projects must be made freely available to UK stakeholders.

The competition will award grants ranging from £50,000 to £150,000 per project. The maximum grant to be shared between partners in a collaborative project is £150,000.

Open Date:


Close Date:


The aim of this competition is to support feasibility studies and industrial research that addresses widely known problems in relation to plastic packaging for consumer products.

You must explain how you are innovating to address one or more of the UK Plastics Pact targets. The benefits of the new approach must be quantified in terms of the Pact targets where possible. Any environmental impacts must be described and justified.

Innovate UK aim to fund projects with either direct or indirect commercial outcomes for the partners.

For example, a project to improve understanding where the outputs would be made freely available would be in scope.

Projects must deliver one or more of the following:

  • A more circular plastic packaging value chain, with reduced environmental impacts, such as carbon emissions and improved recyclability
  • Improved understanding of effective communication techniques to increase recycling rates and uptake of re-use/refill business models
  • More consistent data and increased knowledge relevant to the supply chain

Projects can include either:

  • The re-design of existing goods, services or business models


  • Design of entirely new goods, services or business models to serve an existing need

You must quantify the benefits of the new approach compared to the system your project intends to replace or improve.

Your project must demonstrate a holistic approach, including the likely environmental impacts to:

  • Humans
  • Wildlife and
  • The broader environment

Innovate UK aim to fund a portfolio of projects addressing the four Plastics PACT targets, across a variety of:

  • Technologies
  • Markets
  • Technological maturities and
  • Research categories

This competition is funded by the ISCF Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging Fund (SSPP), the Challenge Director reserves the right to make the final decision regarding all project funding.

Specific themes

Your proposal must focus on addressing known problems in relation to plastic packaging as the primary application.

Suggested themes include, but are not limited to:

  • Packaging suitable for reuse, refill and online delivery
  • Marking and tracking of packaging to improve supply chain circularity or sustainability
  • Films and flexibles in packaging applications
  • Low carbon, non fossil polymers for packaging applications
  • Business models leading to reduced waste plastic going to landfill
  • Behaviour change leading to less packaging waste or higher recycling rates
  • Food grade plastic packaging in the UK marketplace
  • Diverting small format and medical packaging from incineration


  • Must start by 1 June 2021
  • Must end by 30 November 2022
  • Can last up to 18 months

To lead a project or work alone your organisation:

  • Must be a UK-registered business of any size, charity, non-government body or not-for-profit
  • Must carry out its project work in the UK
  • Must intend to exploit the results from or in the UK
  • Can collaborate with UK registered businesses, charities, non-government body, not-for-profit or UK-based academic institutions, research organisations, research and technology organisations (RTOs)

Academic institutions cannot lead or work alone.

To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must:

  • Be a UK-registered business, charity, non-government body, not-for-profit, or UK-based academic institution, research organisation or 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

If you are working collaboratively, 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 login 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 but they cannot receive grant funding.


Subcontractors are allowed in this competition and must be selected through a participant’s normal procurement process. Subcontractors can be from anywhere in the UK. If an overseas subcontractor 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.

Innovate UK expect subcontractor costs to be justified and appropriate to the total eligible project costs.

Multiple applications

When a business, charity, not-for-profit or non-government body leads on an application it can collaborate in a further two applications.

If a business, charity, not-for-profit, or non-government body is not leading an application, they can collaborate in up to three applications.

An academic institution can collaborate on any number of applications.

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 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 a collaborative project, 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.

This competition provides state aid funding under article 25, ‘Aid for research, development and innovation’, of the General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER).

It is your responsibility to make sure that your organisation is eligible to receive state aid.

Innovate UK are not funding projects which:

  • Do not have plastic packaging as the primary focus
  • Do not meet the SSPP Challenge objectives stated in the scope
  • Do not contribute to meeting one or more of the UK Plastics Pact targets
  • Encourage or facilitate the export of plastic packaging while still classified as a waste
  • Involve the production of any kind of fuel or direct energy generation from plastic waste
  • Create any form of standalone ‘Design for Recycling’ guidance

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.