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SBRI: Innovate at HS2 2020, phase 1


Organisations can apply for a share of £300,000, inclusive of VAT, to support HS2 through innovation in construction and design.

This is a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition funded by High Speed Two (HS2) Ltd. The aim of the competition is to deliver innovation that will drive project efficiencies and process optimisations during the design and construction phase of High Speed 2.

This is phase 1 of a potential two-phase competition. A decision to proceed with phase 2 will depend on the outcomes from phase 1. Only successful applicants from phase 1 will be invited to apply to take part in phase 2. This will be managed by HS2. To find out more about phase 2, see ‘Supporting information’.

Phase 1 of this activity is being managed by Innovate UK on behalf of High Speed Two (HS2) Ltd.

Phase 1: research and development contracts, feasibility study

The first phase involves research and development (R&D) contracts being awarded to demonstrate technical feasibility of the proposed solution and the viability and desirability for the HS2 project. A total of up to £300,000, inclusive of VAT, is allocated to this phase.

Feasibility study R&D contracts will be up to £30,000, inclusive of VAT. This is for each project for up to three months.

Innovate UK expect to fund up to 10 projects. The assessors will consider fair value in making their evaluation. For this competition, up to two assessors will be from HS2.

Innovate UK welcome bids from a single entity that brings together sector specialists as subcontractors. Delivery of the contract work will still be the responsibility of the applicant.

Any adoption and implementation of a solution from this competition would be subject of a separate, competitive, procurement exercise. This competition does not cover the purchase of any solution.

Phase 1 projects to range in size up to total costs of £30,000, inclusive of VAT.

Open Date:


Close Date:


The aim of this competition is to demonstrate the desirability, feasibility and viability of innovations. The innovations must provide efficiency, or step change, to traditional processes or ways of working on major infrastructure projects, such as HS2.

In phase 1 you must demonstrate:

  • The desirability and feasibility of your solution by using a proof of concept relatable to the HS2 project
  • The viability of your solution by presenting a qualified supporting business case and demonstrating the breadth of impact your solution can deliver

You must deliver to HS2 your phase 1 report outlining the results of your study. HS2 may share this with other organisations engaged in the HS2 programme

At this stage contracts will be awarded for phase 1 only. You must define your goals and outline your plan for phase 2. This is part of the full commercial implementation in your phase 1 proposal.

You must demonstrate a credible and practical route to market, so your application must include a plan to commercialise your results.

Specific themes

You will be asked to select the primary theme as part of your application in ‘project details’. Your project must focus on one or more of these themes:

  • Reduce manual operations
  • Project interfaces
  • Waste in construction
  • Recruitment and onboarding
  • Procurement loss prevention

Reduce manual operations

The construction industry has been slow to adopt digital capability, therefore there is tremendous opportunity across a wide string of processes and activities.

Innovate UK want to explore technology that can replace:

  • Manual ways of working
  • Activities that are historically labour intensive or inefficient

Innovate UK want new innovation that can:

  • Identify, reduce or remove paper-based activities
  • Automate and optimise processes as efficiently as possible

Project interfaces

Major projects such as HS2 are complex. Innovate UK want to improve the way HS2 can digitally interface between:

  • Contracts
  • Work packages
  • Project schedules
  • Project disciplines
  • Stakeholders

Waste in construction

The construction industry contributes to a large percentage of waste generated in England. Poor site management can lead to materials being unused. Innovate UK want to explore technology solutions that can minimise material waste on HS2. This could be a result of:

  • Storage
  • Protection
  • Multi handling
  • Site control
  • Overordering
  • Lack of control
  • Damage

Recruitment and onboarding

HS2 will need to recruit tens of thousands of people over the duration of the project. Due to the large number of sites on HS2, their workforce will undertake multiple inductions of a similar nature. Innovate UK want to research and develop solutions that can optimise:

  • The recruitment process
  • Site inductions
  • Onboarding of staff

Procurement Loss Prevention

HS2 wants to research and develop solutions that could identify:

  • Inflated costs
  • Payments that fall outside of scope of works
  • Anomalies in wage rates
  • Ways to validate itemising of materials for quantity and quality
  • Any false representations

Projects are expected to:

  • Start by 1 March 2021
  • End by 31 May 2021
  • Last up to three months

To lead a project, you can:

  • Be an organisation of any size
  • Work alone or with other organisations as subcontractors

Contracts will be awarded only to a single legal entity. However, if you can justify subcontracting components of the work, you can employ specialist consultants or advisers. This work will still be the responsibility of the main contractor.

A total of up to £300,000, inclusive of VAT, is allocated to phase 1.

Phase 1 feasibility study R&D contracts will be up to £30,000 inclusive of VAT, for each project for up to three months. Innovate UK expect to fund up to 10 projects.

The total funding available for the competition can change. The funders have the right to:

  • Adjust the provisional funding allocations between the phases
  • Apply a portfolio approach

Research and development

Your application must have at least 50% of the contract value attributed directly and exclusively to R&D services, including solution exploration and design. R&D can also include prototyping and field-testing the product or service. This lets you incorporate the results of your exploration and design and demonstrate that you can produce in quantity to acceptable quality standards.

R&D does not include:

  • Commercial development activities such as quantity production
  • Supply to establish commercial viability or to recover R&D costs
  • Integration, customisation or incremental adaptations and improvements to existing products or processes

State aid

SBRI competitions involve procurement of R&D services at a fair market value and are not subject to state aid criteria that typically apply to grant funding.

Innovate UK will not fund projects that:

  • Are not likely to be successfully exploited by the rail industry to deliver benefits to rail infrastructure clients or contractors
  • Do not create a significant change in the level of innovation available in the rail industry
  • Do not meet the needs of the competition challenges
  • Do not demonstrate a significant return on investment on the end solution
  • Have a lead time for feasible realisation greater than three years
  • Develop solutions already commercially available

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.