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ISCF smart sustainable plastic packaging: Feasibility studies and industrial research


UK businesses can apply for a share of up to £1million 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 £1million from the Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging Programme for early-stage projects in smart and sustainable plastic packaging.

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, while still demonstrating practical and close-to-market solutions

Your proposal must:

  • Show how your project supports the objectives of the Pact and delivers systemic change
  • Clearly explain how you would reduce the UK plastic packaging system’s overall environmental impact

Innovate UK welcome projects across one or more of the following four areas:

  1. Materials
  2. Design
  3. Technology or process
  4. Business model or behaviour change

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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.

The aim of this competition is to support innovation to deliver a more circular economy for plastic packaging in order to deliver on the following SSPP Challenge objectives:

  1. Unlock a significant overall increase in research and innovation (R&I) spend (government and industry).
  2. Deliver R&I to support more sustainable plastic packaging in line with the UK Plastics Pact targets.
  3. Increase UK plastic packaging supply chain collaboration

You must explain how you are innovating to contribute to the UK meeting one or more of the UK Plastics Pact targets:

  1. 100% of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable.
  2. 70% of plastic packaging effectively recycled or composted.
  3. 30% average recycled content across all plastic packaging.
  4. Take actions to eliminate problematic or unnecessary single-use packaging items through redesign, innovation or alternative (reuse) delivery models.

Your proposal must take a systems perspective, use a lifecycle approach and consider the environment impacts. Read the supporting information to understand the definitions we are using of these terms.

The methodology and models applied to the project should be validated and endorsed by a national and/or international agency, such as the Environment Agency in the UK or the European Environment Agency in Europe.

Innovate UK are looking to fund a portfolio of projects, spread across the main themes of the Challenge programme which are materials, design, technology and process, and business model.

Specific themes

Your proposal must focus on plastic packaging as the primary application but also include one or more of the following four innovation themes.

Materials innovation, for example:

  • New, recyclable polymer materials
  • Biopolymers
  • Improving ‘compatibilisation’ (making it easier to use more recycled content) alternatives to plastics for current packaging applications (for example, mycelium materials to replace expanded polystyrene) where plastic is the only current option

Design innovation, for example:

  • Design for recyclability
  • Design for reuse
  • Making food delivery and other delivery packaging more recyclable
  • Marking and identification technologies to make sorting easier

Technology and process innovation, for example:

  • Reuse processes (for example cleaning)
  • Collection
  • Sorting and separation
  • Mechanical recycling
  • Chemical recycling
  • Anaerobic digestion (AD) or composting of compostable packaging

Business model innovation, for example:

  • Reusable packaging systems, for example refill
  • Zero packaging business models and systems
  • Consumer or business behavioural change

Projects must start by August 2020 and end by September 2021. They can last up to 12 months.

To lead a project or work alone your organisation must:

  • Be a registered UK business of any size
  • Carry out its project work in the UK
  • Intend to exploit the results from or in the UK

To collaborate with the lead organisation your organisation must:

  • Be a UK-registered business, academic institution, charity, public sector organisation or RTO
  • Carry out its project work in the UK
  • Intend to exploit the results from or in the UK
  • Be invited to take part by the lead applicant
  • Enter its costs in the Innovation Funding Service

The lead and at least one other organisation must claim funding.

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.

Any one business can lead on one application and collaborate in a further two applications.

If a business is not leading an application, they can collaborate in up to three applications. An RTO or academic institution can collaborate on any number of applications.

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

Organisations that are primarily engaged in commercial or economic activity (known as selective advantage) as part of the project must ensure their request for funding does not exceed the limits defined below. This includes organisations that typically act non-economically but for the purpose of this project will be undertaking commercial or economic activity.

Projects can be either feasibility studies or industrial research. The project’s overall grant cannot exceed 40% of the total eligible project costs. Of that 40%, the maximum percentage an individual business partner can receive in a collaborative project is dependent on the size of organisation as follows:

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

The research organisations in your consortium can share up to 30% of the total eligible project costs. If your consortium contains more than one research organisation, this maximum is shared between them.

This competition provides state aid funding under article 25, Aid for R&D, 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
  • Encourage or facilitate the export of plastic packaging while still classified as a waste
  • Use or manufacture either a liquid fuel or a solid fuel, such as refuse-derived fuel or solid-recovered fuel, as the primary 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.