Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Develop technology ideas for commercial application: STFC innovation partnership scheme Feb 2022

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Apply for funding to develop technology ideas for commercial application.

You must:

  • be based at a UK research organisation eligible for UKRI funding
  • have a project partner from industry or other non-academic institutions.

Research could include:

  • nuclear physics
  • particle physics and particle astrophysics
  • astronomy and space science
  • accelerators and computing in support of these areas.

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £450,000. STFC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

Your project can run for up to 36 months.

Who can apply

You must:

  • be employed at an eligible research organisation
  • demonstrate that the science, technology and expertise involved originated from the STFC core science programme or the STFC facilities and laboratories:
    • European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN)
    • UK Space Agency
    • European Southern Observatory (ESO)
    • European Synchrotron Radiation Facility (ESRF).

Eligible organisations are:

  • higher education institutions
  • approved research council institutes
  • approved independent research organisations
  • public sector research establishments.

STFC employees working at one of our national laboratories are eligible, but must demonstrate a clear transfer of technology to commercialisation.

Lead applicants

Lead applicants need to demonstrate that the project idea is linked to STFC research.

As such, the innovation partnerships scheme (IPS) is only open to current or past STFC grant holders (core research grants or studentships only) who meet the eligibility criteria defined in the guidance for applicants.

If you have received STFC funding, but not in your name (for example, through a PhD or postdoctoral position), then you’re still eligible to apply for the IPS scheme. However, you must:

  • be attached to an eligible research office
  • be able to show how you will remain under contract for the length of the grant.

If there are any concerns or queries regarding eligibility, please contact the office.

Industrial applicants are not permitted to be lead applicants and should be listed as project partners.

Lead research organisation

The research office must be eligible to hold UKRI grants. Therefore, they must be:

  • an approved UK higher education institution
  • a research council institute
  • another public sector research establishment or independent research organisation.

Check if your institution is eligible for research and innovation funding.

For further information applicants should refer to the guidance for applicants.

Non‐academic organisations

Industrial organisations, including research or training organisations and not‐for‐profit operations, must:

  • apply in collaboration with a lead academic partner
  • demonstrate that they possess the relevant technical capabilities and capacity to meet the scheme’s objectives.

These collaborators are expected to be support partners, donating funds or aid in kind to a project. Furthermore, as this scheme is UK-funded, the organisation must have a strong presence and benefit the UK economy.

The industrial supporter may be based outside the UK but the expected value added to the UK economy, both within the project timescale and as a result of the work completed, will play an important part in the assessment of the worth of the project.

The greater the value to the UK, the more highly rated the project will be at the time of assessment for funding.

It’s quite common for IPS projects to have industrial partners who are spin-out or start-up companies arising from the academic group submitting the proposal. A conflict of interest may arise in this case when, for example, a named investigator may have shares in the company or when they are to benefit directly from the commercialisation process.

In cases where the principal investigator has current or former links to the project partner organisations, then this should be clearly declared in the letter of support, alongside details of their involvement and how it will be managed or mitigated, and how the intellectual property will be shared.

Furthermore, any contributions to the project should be clarified, so that, for example, any support is not being double-counted as commitments by the academic leads.

University spin-outs are eligible project partner organisations and will be treated equally to those with unrelated industrial partners. However, UKRI requires 100% transparency over any relationships. If there are any questions around this, please contact the office.

What we're looking for

We are looking to support the transfer to the marketplace of technology and expertise from STFC-funded research.

This includes technologies or ideas originating from our core funded areas:

  • nuclear physics
  • particle physics and particle astrophysics
  • astronomy and space science
  • accelerators
  • computing in support of these.

You must be working with a partner such as a business, charity, NHS body or government department. Your partner will be expected to make a financial or in-kind contribution and have a vested interest in the outcome of the research.

Funding available

Our funding will support technical development.

Projects should not exceed £450,000 over 36 months. We will fund 80% of the full economic costs.

Projects must start within three months from the date of the award letter.

The contributions of your project partners are over and above the full economic costs of the project for the purposes of our funding.

See the full guidance for applicants (PDF 344KB).

Project partners

STFC will pay up to 80% of the total costs of the project excluding the project partner contribution. Project partner’s contributions, either direct or in‐kind, should be seen as additional to STFC’s contribution and are not considered part of the full economic costs of the project.

It’s the responsibility of the lead applicant to ensure that the total budget requested by all members of a project (joint applications) is within the financial limits of this scheme.

It is expected that project partners will contribute an appropriate level of support throughout the project and have a vested interest in any outcomes.

Intellectual property

Funding cannot be used to support the direct costs associated with applying for intellectual property protection, for example, patent filing costs. At the time of application, or during any subsequent grant, we would not anticipate any business to have exclusive rights to the assets and intellectual property arising from the funded project.

How to apply

Applying through the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system

You should apply through the Joint Electronic Submissions (Je-S) system.

You should attach the following documents to your application:

  • Je-S pro forma
  • case for support (seven pages)
  • Gantt chart (one page)
  • data management plan
  • letter of support from technology transfer office
  • letters of support from each project partner
  • letters of support from any organisations interested in the project
  • optional covering letter (covering letters will not been seen by external reviewers or the panel)
  • other (any document uploaded under ‘other’ will not be seen by external reviewers or the panel).

We recommend you start your application early. You can save completed details in Je-S at any time and return to continue your application later.

When you submit the application, it will first go to your host organisation for review. Please allow sufficient time for this.

The process from submission deadline to decision normally takes about three months.

In Je-S, please include and complete the following:

  • council: STFC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: IPS
  • call/type/mode: KE Feb 2022.

Find more information on how to apply in the full guidance for applicants (PDF 344KB).

Project partners

A project partner is required for an IPS project, as the schemes are designed to support knowledge exchange.

The primary investigator should include details of the project partner under ‘project partners’ in the Je-S form and through a letter of support. Resources to be provided by any project partners, whether in cash or in‐kind contributions, should be clearly identified in the proposal.

You’re advised to obtain the necessary clearances from collaborators with a commercial interest in the content of the application before submitting it.

Case for support

The case for support should be no longer than seven pages and conform to the font and margin guidelines in the Je‐S help text.

It’s the responsibility of the principal applicant to ensure that the information is worded in such a way as to protect commercial, confidential or sensitive data.

STFC will assume that you have obtained necessary permissions from any party that may be involved in the application.

The case for support should be a self-contained summary of the proposed work with the necessary context given to enable panel members to make an informed judgement on the overall quality of the proposal.

The case for support must be structured using the following headings. The guidance notes underneath have been specifically designed by us to encourage you to develop and think about your commercialisation ideas as part of the application process.

We appreciate that not all points will be relevant to all applicants, as it will be dependent on the maturity of the technology.

You’re encouraged to engage with your project partners or technology transfer office (or equivalent) when developing your case for support. If there are any questions, or additional clarifications needed, please contact the office.

Technical overview

A one-page overview (maximum of one page) of the technology must be included as part of the case for support. This should include:

  • a brief review of the underpinning research and context from the science area the opportunity arose from (include details of previous funding where relevant)
  • a technical overview of the innovation or technology, including any preliminary data or proof-of-concept, for example, which will explain the current status of the innovation.
Business case

The remaining six-pages should be the business case of the application. This should be structured using the following headings. The technical overview can be referred to as part of the business case where relevant.

Opportunity and market analysis

This is where you should explore the opportunity or challenge you’re seeking to exploit or address, which could lead to the development or deployment of a new or improved product, service or technology.

You should use this section to:

  • describe the market opportunity or need that this proposal will seek to address
  • give an overview of the target market, including the sector and scale
  • outline how your proposed solution will address the opportunity or need, considering the scalability of the proposed approach
  • explain how your proposed approach is an improvement (where there are existing or competing innovations or solutions)
  • identify the end user or customer base and explain how the proposed solution provides a practical solution to their needs.
Development plan

This is where you should explore how the idea or solution has been developed to date and what the proposed approach is for further development. This section should expand on the technical overview section listed above to discuss how the innovation will progress towards commercialisation.

You should use this section to:

  • detail the current understanding or maturity of the innovation or technology and how the proposed work will enable its development towards commercialisation (you can reference back to the technical overview document if required)
  • detail how key users, customers or potential investors will be engaged throughout the project, referencing any prior interactions to date
  • include specific project milestones or deliverables, and the resourcing necessary to deliver the proposed work
  • detail any necessary access to facilities, expertise or consultancy essential to delivering the proposed work, including any regulatory requirements
  • consider where risks exist (for example, financial, commercial, technical and regulatory), and outline mitigation strategies for the issues that may limit this project from delivering on its objectives (risks and mitigation strategies can be presented as a table)
  • detail the contribution (for example, intellectual, technical or financial) from business or organisation partners.

Please upload a separate Gantt chart (or similar) to illustrate the project plan. The similar attachment should be maximum one side of A4.

At the time of application, or during any subsequent grant, we would not anticipate any business to have exclusive rights to the assets and intellectual property arising from the funded project.

Route to market and intellectual assets

This is where you should explore:

  • how the proposed project will progress the innovation or technology towards market or application
  • how you will exploit and enable the deployment of the innovation into the proposed market or sector.

You should use this section to:

  • describe how the proposed work will inform, enable or accelerate the deployment of the product, service or technology through the most appropriate route to market
  • outline what further support you will need following this funding (where appropriate) to deliver your product, service or technology (for example, access to networks, further funding, private investment and skills) and how you will go about securing it
  • outline how any intellectual assets, including intellectual property, generated will be managed throughout the project to enable further development and ensure future success
    • outline where intellectual property and freedom to operate considerations will need to be accounted for (for example, where licences will need to be obtained)
      • whilst the specific details are not required (unless they have already been obtained), you’re encouraged to have an understanding on what may be needed in this space
  • outline any engagement with potential end users
  • detail how key users, customers or potential investors will be engaged throughout the project, referencing any prior interactions to date.
Wider benefits

This is where you should explore what the potential societal, environmental and economic benefits of the proposed approach are (beyond the commercial opportunity).

You should use this section to:

  • explain why the proposed programme is appropriate for public funding
  • consider the potential of the approach to impact on high-level societal and environmental challenges, for example, gender equality, diversity, social inclusion and climate change
  • outline any wider economic impacts to the UK, for example, on job creation, skills or capacity building
  • describe what steps will be taken to maximise any potential benefits.
Ethical considerations

This is where you should explore any ethical considerations associated with your product, service or technology, including those that are beyond formal regulatory and legal frameworks.

You should use this section to:

  • outline whether there are any ethical considerations relating to the project or its impacts, including any potential impacts on the environment
  • outline the steps already taken to put ethical approval (for example, human or animal studies) in place, if relevant
  • consider societal acceptance of your innovation and where you think this might limit its uptake, and outline strategies which could be employed to address this
  • detail any implications for trusted and responsible research and innovation practices, if relevant (for example, dual-use (both military and non-military) applications to your research, which could limit the commercial potential).

Find out more about trusted research and innovation on our website and the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure’s website.

Letters of support

Project partners

Letters or emails of support must be included from all named partners. In addition, you can include letters of support from other relevant parties not directly involved in the project but who support the objectives, for example, potential end users or customers.

The letters:

  • can be either physical letters or emails:
    • letters of support should be on headed paper and signed by a senior member of staff or director (the capacity in which the supporter is signing off the letter should be stated)
    • emails of support should be from an appropriate person and clearly named alongside their title
  • must be dated within six months of the submission
  • must be no more than two sides of A4 in length
  • must detail their interest and involvement in the project in terms of specific objectives and desired outcomes together
  • must detail the projected market size, customers and sales
  • must describe how the company will commercialise the technology beyond the project
  • must detail specific contributions to the project (either cash or in kind) with a justifiable monetary value (these contributions should also be stated in the case for support).

If the principal investigator has any current or former links to the partner organisation, then they should be declared in the letter of support, alongside the details on any such involvement and how the conflict will be managed or mitigated.

This is only relevant where a named investigator has any formal connection with the partner organisation and a vested or financial interest in the commercialisation outcome (for example, current or former employee, shareholder or member of an oversight or advisory board).

Technology transfer office

A letter of support from your technology transfer office (or equivalent) must be included with each IPS application.

It should:

  • relate specifically to the proposal
  • not be a generic letter of support
  • explain in detail how the university sees the project being taken forward and how the university intends to support the work involved
  • outline the current and anticipated intellectual property position (if a patent has been filed or granted) of any involved parties.

Je-S only allows a maximum of three letters of support to be uploaded. Therefore, letters of support may be merged together into a single document if needed.

Data management plan

It’s anticipated that all applications will produce or collect data during the course of the proposed project.

The development of a data management plan as an attachment to the Je-S pro forma is mandatory for all applications.

The plan should be no longer than two pages of A4. The plan, together with any costs associated with it, will be considered and assessed by the normal peer review process.

The data management plan should explain how the data will be managed over the lifetime of the project and, where appropriate, preserved for future re‐use. Applications that do not have a data management plan will not be accepted.

How we will assess your application

Your application will be assessed by external reviewers and then reviewed by an independent panel made up of members from industry and academia.

You can nominate one reviewer who is not a current or previous collaborator, friend or family member, or based at your host institution.

Criteria for assessment

Your application will be assessed on the following criteria:

  • technical feasibility
  • knowledge exchange and commercialisation
  • economic and societal impact
  • added value.

Technical excellence

The proposed project must include a programme of excellent technical development.

The proposal should:

  • build on solid and well-thought-out technical evidence
  • be feasible from a technical standpoint
  • build on a strong underpinning science case.

Knowledge exchange and commercialisation

We will assess:

  • the extent to which the project has a clear, well-defined mechanism for achieving its knowledge exchange and commercialisation objectives
  • the capability of the project team and partner organisations on being able to deliver on the project.

Economic and societal impact

We will assess the extent to which the:

  • outputs of the proposed work show direct potential for economic and societal benefit to the UK
  • end users have been engaged
  • wider benefits and ethics have been considered.

Added value

We will assess the:

  • extent to which the resources requested, relative to the anticipated outputs, represent an appropriate investment of STFC funds (value for money)
  • degree of support from project partners both during research and after funding
  • consideration of the future of the project after this funding
  • strategic value within the STFC programme.

Partner contribution

The individual nature of proposals submitted to the innovation partnership scheme means that:

  • the partner’s contribution will vary in context
  • each application will be assessed on its own merit.

The assessment panel will be seeking evidence of commitment from the project partner, through the use of direct funding or in-kind support, and whether this commitment is substantially justified.

If the proposal is from CERN, ESO, or the ESRF, STFC will consider the extent to which the proposed knowledge exchange collaboration will enable CERN, ESO or ESRF technology to be exploited by UK industry or non‐STFC academic sectors.

Response to reviewers

You will have the opportunity to respond to reviewers’ comments before the panel meeting.

You can use Je-S to indicate the reviewers or include this in a covering letter attached to the application and uploaded through Je-S.

You should be aware that we will request your response to reviewers approximately four to six weeks following the closing date of the funding opportunity.

All key dates (including an estimated date for this response) will be communicated to any eligible applicants following submission.

The principal investigator response should be:

  • no more than half a page of A4 per reviewer (Arial font size 11)
  • no longer than two pages in total, unless otherwise stated by the office.

This should be submitted within five working days of receipt. Failure to adhere to these guidelines could result in your principal investigator response not being taken forward to the panel meeting. For more details, please see the Je-S helpdesk.

Contact details

Get help with developing your proposal

For help and advice on costings and writing your proposal, please contact your research office in the first instance. You should allow sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process.

Ask about this funding opportunity

Wendy Carr, Senior Programme Manager

Email: wendy.carr@stfc.ukri.org

Ed Mansfield, Programme Manager

Email: edward.mansfield@stfc.ukri.org

Include ‘STFC IPS Scheme’ in the subject line.

We aim to respond within one working day.

Get help with applying through Je-S

Email

jeshelp@je-s.ukri.org

Telephone

01793 444164

Opening times

Je-S helpdesk opening times

Additional info

Find out more about STFC funding to help turn academic research into commercial applications in the STFC knowledge exchange.

If the funding opportunity is successful, a collaboration agreement must be submitted before any funding can start.

Current panel members

View the current membership below for the February 2022 round. STFC reserves the right to change the panel membership if required.

The current members are:

  • Mark Bray, BAE Systems Ltd. (chair)
  • Derryck Reid, Heriot-Watt University (vice-chair)
  • Karen Aplin, University of Bristol
  • Alexander Cherlin, Kromek Group
  • Richard Bates, Glasgow University
  • David Petyt, CERN
  • Eva Vilella, University of Liverpool
  • Konstantin Stefanov, The Open University
  • Norman Maloney, OHM-E Technology
  • Andrew Williams, ESO
  • Don Pollacco, University of Warwick
  • Kathryn Welsby, STFC (Central Laser Facility)
  • Philippe Wilson, Nottingham Trent University
  • Des Gibson, University of West Scotland.

Confidentiality

STFC takes all reasonable steps to ensure that the contents of applications submitted to the innovation partnerships scheme are treated as confidential.

When appointed to the panel, members are asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement covering all applications. Additionally, when any conflicts of interest arise, the panel member will be excused from any discussion regarding the related proposal.

Reviewers are also asked to declare conflicts of interest in relation to an application, before they are asked to assess. Peer reviewers must comply with the research councils’ reviewer protocols.

Supporting documents

Guidance for applicants (PDF 344KB)

Equality impact assessment (PDF, 200KB)

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