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Circular economy for SMEs – innovating with the NICER programme UK registered businesses can apply for a share of up to £1 million to research, test and develop step-change circular economy approaches. Eligibility This competition is open to single applicants and collaborations. To lead a project your organisation must be a UK registered micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME). Open now Opened: 11 October 2021 Closes: 8 December 2021

Programme: Innovate Uk

Award:

Opens: 11 October 2021

Closes: 8 December 2021

Description

Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, will invest up to £1 million in circular economy innovation projects.

This funding forms part of the UKRI National Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Research programme (NICER), enabling SMEs to engage with and benefit from access to expertise at five research centres via collaborative research and development (CR&D) activities.

The aim of this competition is to support feasibility studies, industrial research and experimental development that address the challenges of transitioning to a circular economy.

Your proposal must demonstrate how you will create a step-change in the adoption of circular economy approaches.

In applying to this competition, you are entering into a competitive process. This competition closes at 11am UK time on the deadline stated.

Funding type

Grant

Project size

Your project’s total eligible costs must be between £50,000 and £100,000.

Who can apply

Your project

Your project must:

  • have total eligible costs between £50,000 and £100,000
  • start no earlier than 1 April 2022
  • end by 31 March 2023
  • last between 9 and 12 months
  • carry out all of its project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK

You must either include at least one of the UKRI Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Centres as a project partner, or include a letter of support from one of the centres. The letters must demonstrate alignment of the proposed activities to one or more Centres’ aims and objectives.

If your project’s total eligible costs or duration falls outside of our eligibility criteria, you must provide justification by email to support@innovateuk.ukri.org at least 10 working days before the competition closes. We will decide whether to approve your request. If you have not requested approval or your request has not been approved by us, you will be made ineligible and your application will not be sent for assessment.

Lead organisation

To lead a project or work alone your organisation must be a UK registered micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) business.

Academic institutions cannot lead or work alone.


Project team

To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must be one of the following UK registered:

  • business of any size
  • academic institution
  • charity
  • not-for-profit
  • public sector organisation
  • research and technology organisation (RTO)

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.

If part of a collaboration the lead and at least one other organisation must claim funding by entering their costs during the application.

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

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 in your application as to 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.

We expect all subcontractor costs to be justified and appropriate to the total eligible project costs. We 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 2 applications.

An academic institution, charity, not-for-profit, public sector organisation or RTO can collaborate on any number of applications.

Previous applications

You can use a previously submitted application to apply for this competition.

We 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. We will conduct financial viability and eligibility tests to confirm this is not the case following the application stage.

EU State aid rules now only apply in limited circumstances. Please see our general guidance to check if these rules apply to your organisation.


Further Information

If you are unsure about your obligations under the UK Subsidy Control regime or the State aid rules, you should take independent legal advice. We are unable to advise on individual eligibility or legal obligations.

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 we need to change the terms of this competition, we will tell you as soon as possible.

Funding

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

If the majority of your organisation’s work on the project is 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 experimental development projects which are nearer to market, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • up to 45% if you are a micro or small organisation
  • up to 35% if you are a medium-sized organisation
  • up to 25% if you are a large organisation

NICER Centre academic partners can apply for funding for activities or additional resources and materials that are essential to the project achieving its full potential. These costs must be eligible project costs which have not been supported by UKRI funds already awarded.

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.

If you are applying for an award funded under State aid Regulations, the definitions are set out in the European Commission Recommendation of 6 May 2003.

Research participation

The research organisations undertaking non-economic activity as part of the project can share up to 30% 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.


Of that 30% you could get funding for your eligible project costs of up to:

  • 80% of full economic costs (FEC) if you are a Je-s registered institution such as an academic
  • 100% of your eligible project costs if you are an RTO, charity, non-profit organisation, public sector organisation or research organisation
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