The Nanotechnology Knowledge Transfer Network, one of the UK’s primary knowledge-based networks for Micro and Nanotechnologies, is urging SMEs to apply for The Technology Strategy Board’s latest ‘technology-inspired’ competition for fast-track and collaborative Research and Development funding, and welcomes the changes to Technology Strategy Board funding rules to further support UK SMEs’ business growth and development.
Innovative proposals from SMEs are sought that focus on projects that advance the development of a recent technological discovery or breakthrough in the context of significant and identifiable technological risk, which can be broadly applied across a wide range of market opportunities and needs. Projects must be collaborative and business-led.
The Technology Strategy Board has allocated up to £10m to fund fast-track and collaborative research and development projects that aim to demonstrate new technologies that align with the competition scope. Additional funding from the BBSRC and the EPSRC may be available for projects in line with the scope of this competition that contain a significant, high-quality academic research component and demonstrate added value by building on or being complementary to their existing research programmes and portfolios. BBSRC are offering up to £750k for the competition and EPSRC will consider projects on a case-by-case basis.
Projects should be collaborative (i.e. with at least two partners) and business-led. Research organisations may participate in projects as a partner in a consortium however at least 70% of the project costs must be incurred by businesses. Large companies involved in a project can claim up to 50% of their costs while small and medium-sized companies can claim up to 60%. Research organisations will be able to claim 100% of their eligible project costs depending upon their research activity and dissemination.
The competition has two strands:
Strand 1 is a single-stage fast-track process. Projects must be led by a small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) and must last between six and 12 months.
Strand 2 is a two-stage competition. Consortia should include at least one SME partner and projects must last between 12 and 24 months.
The competition opens on 3 December 2012 with a registration close date of 23 January 2013. A briefing event will be held in London on 11 December 2012 to highlight the main features of the competition and explain the application process. For further information see: http://www.innovateuk.org/content/competition/technology-inspired-innovation3.ashx.
The Technology Strategy Board has also simplified the way funding is allocated to the partners in collaborative research and development projects which include research organisations. The changes are good news both for business – especially SMEs - and for the research base. The main aim is to encourage companies to collaborate with UK research organisations by maximising the funding a business can receive when it works with a research organisation on a collaborative project.
Dr Alec Reader, Director at the NanoKTN, explained, “Previously, the grant funding was allocated to the project overall and the partners divided it. The proportion of grant funding as a percentage of total project cost was generally capped at 50%, so a business or consortium wanting to involve a research partner had to split the grant between the partners. With these changes, different elements of the overall grant are now allocated to each project partner based on their organisation type and size, rather than to the project as a whole. Businesses in an applied research project, for example, can now claim the full grant of 50% of their costs (or 60% in the case of an SME) to match their own funding.”
There is an additional benefit for SMEs. In the past they could in theory claim up to 60% of their costs, but the 50% overall project cap meant that if several SMEs were in a project they could not each claim 60%. As the allocation will now be by partner, all SMEs in a project will be able to claim up to 60% of their costs.
Reader continued, “SMEs are the lifeblood of our economy and we are delighted that these new funding changes and technology-inspired’ funding competition calls will directly assist SMEs in their business growth and development. The objective of collaborative research and development is to assist industry, research communities and other organisations to work together on research and development projects in strategically important areas of science, engineering and technology, from which successful new products, processes and services can emerge.”
The changes apply to new Technology Strategy Board Collaborative Research and Development competitions, where there is the facility to partner with research organisations, opening after 1 Sept 2012.
For further information on the funding rule changes and guidance for applicants, please visit: http://www.innovateuk.org/competitions/guidance-for-applicants/funding-rules/level-of-participation.ashx.