• Status: Closed

  • Key features: Investment of up to £6 million in collaborative research and development (R&D) projects to encourage the development of smart products that use a combination of functional, hybrid and multiple materials.

  • Programme: Collaborative research and development

  • Award: Up to £6 million

  • Opens: 16 Mar 2015, 00:00

  • Registration closes: 29 Apr 2015, 12:00

  • Closes: 06 May 2015, 12:00

  • Support phone number: 0300 321 4357

Creating smart products from smart materials


Innovate UK and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) will invest up to £6 million in collaborative research and development (R&D) projects to encourage the development of smart products that use a combination of functional, hybrid and multiple materials.

We are looking to fund projects that bring together material suppliers with processing specialists and end-users to focus on the challenges of manufacturing and exploiting existing materials.

Projects must be collaborative and led by a business. We expect to fund mainly industrial research projects in which a business partner will generally attract up to 50% public funding for their project costs (60% for SMEs), with elements of research carried out by academic partners.

Projects should last between 1 and 3 years. We expect projects to range in size from total costs of £500,000 to £1 million, although we may consider projects outside this range.

This is a two-stage competition that opens for applicants on 16 March 2015. The deadline for registration is noon on 29 April 2015. The deadline for expressions of interest is noon on 6 May 2015.

There will be a briefing event for potential applicants in London on 25 March 2015You can register for the briefing event via the new Innovate UK events app: 

iPhone users can download our app on the app store. 

Android users can download our app on Google Play. 


You can find the latest information on workshops and webinars at http://bit.ly/1GJ2ckI

Key dates

Competition opens 16 March 2015
Competition briefing 25 March 2015
Registration deadline noon 29 April 2015
Expressions of interest deadline noon 6 May 2015
Stage 2 opens for invited applicants 26 May 2015
Deadline for invited applications noon 25 June 2015



Advanced functional (smart) materials provide designers with opportunities to create new products or transform existing ones. For example, a capsule with a smart coating that responds to changes in hormone levels could improve drug efficacy.

These materials respond autonomously to stimuli in the environment to produce a beneficial action, which is usually reversible. Products enhanced with smart materials may display self-cleaning, self-healing, pH-responsive, anti-microbial, shape- shifting or other smart properties.

Examples of stimuli include acoustic, chemical, electrical, magnetic, mechanical, photonic and thermal stimuli. Smart properties may also be created by engineering material structures to create hybrid or multiple materials:

  • hybrid materials are structured at the nano or micro level
  • multiple materials are fabricated on the millimetre to centimetre scale

This competition aims to stimulate innovation in developing smart products that use a combination of functional, hybrid and multiple materials.

Functional materials are already used in motors, actuators, transducers, structural materials and sensors. This competition aims to address strong UK demand for creating smart products in healthcare, transport, security, the built environment and energy, with support for material supply chains. Factors limiting smart product development include:

  • uncertain costs or yields as new materials scale up to high-volume production
  • lack of data concerning durability and longevity
  • uncertainty about the best fabrication processes
  • dispersion and alignment challenges
  • uncertainty in material modelling and characterisation
  • integrating new materials with existing materials
  • disassembly at end of life to capture valuable or scarce materials and/or avoid potential hazards
  • material sourcing or substitution to comply with environmental legislation
  • material purity to ensure specificity in response to stray stimuli

Overcoming these challenges is critical to developing materials and processing technologies that will:

  • enable smart products to be manufactured economically
  • encourage the formation of new supply chains


We are looking to stimulate the creation of smart products that use a combination of functional, hybrid and/or multiple materials.

A smart product is one that responds autonomously to stimuli in the environment to produce a beneficial action, which is usually reversible.

To be in scope, projects must involve the development of a smart product, or the enhancement of an existing product with the addition of smart properties.

We aim to encourage consortia to create new supply chains to address the challenges listed above.

Projects must address the uncertainties associated with materials manufacturing and processing. We expect projects to include one or more of the following work packages:

  • novel fabrication techniques, such as dispersion or alignment
  • in-process metrology
  • material characterisation and in-situ monitoring
  • yield optimisation
  • accelerated life tests to determine material durability
  • techniques to advance disassembly and recovery at end of life

As many smart products imitate nature, bio-inspired products are in scope, but biological systems are not. Combinations of electronic components and software to create a smart product are also out of scope.

We are looking for projects addressing the challenges of manufacturing smart products using existing materials, rather than discovering new materials.

To be successful, applicants will need to demonstrate that their project includes innovative steps in material processing involving technical and/or business risks. They should also explain how they will address these risks to deliver a commercially viable outcome.

We are particularly interested in projects aimed at improving environmental and social impact across the lifecycle of the product. For example, substitution or reduction of hazardous materials, significant reductions in energy or water use in manufacturing, and/or improved end-of-life outcomes such as repair, reuse, remanufacture or recyclability.

Our sustainability tool Horizons (http://horizons.innovateuk.org) can be used to consider the environmental, political and social drivers for projects.

For help using Horizons, please contact Ben Peace at ben.peace@ktn-uk.org

For the latest information and details of our smart materials user group, please visit http://bit.ly/1GJ2ckI


Funding allocation and project details

We have allocated up to £5 million to fund collaborative R&D projects that address the technical and implementation challenges outlined in the scope.

Additional funding of up to £1 million is available from EPSRC for:

  • fundamental research components of these projects
  • work packages that contain a significant, high-quality academic research component and demonstrate added value by building on (or complementing) EPSRC's existing research programmes and portfolios

Projects must be collaborative and led by a business. As a minimum, each consortium must include at least three organisations, including a material supplier and at least one end-user. Applicants should identify end-users within the consortium and say which sector they belong to.

We are particularly interested in projects where the consortium can demonstrate impact with two or more end-users from different sectors. We reserve the right to apply a portfolio approach across end-user sectors, subject to applications meeting the required quality threshold.

Successful applicants can attract grant funding towards their eligible project costs. The percentage of costs that we pay varies, depending on the type of research being carried out and the type of organisation involved.

We are primarily seeking to fund industrial research with a business partner attracting 50% public funding for their project costs (60% for SMEs). For projects including fundamental research to be supported by EPSRC, a minimum of 50% of the project must involve industrial research conducted by the business partners in the consortium.

Projects should last between 1 and 3 years, and typical project costs should be in the range of £500,000 to £1 million.

Business partners are encouraged to collaborate with research organisations, but their participation must be no greater than 50% of the total project cost. We will consider projects that involve primarily industrial research and elements of experimental development, as defined by Innovate UK. Where projects cover more than one of these categories, this should be indicated on the application form.

Definitions of R&D categories and details of Innovate UK's funding rules are given on our website. For this and general guidance on how projects are funded, see https://interact.innovateuk.org/-/funding-rules

To find out if your business fits the EU definition of an SME, see http://ec.europa.eu/small-business/faq/index_en.htm

Innovate UK is working with the government's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) to enable companies to identify dual use (civil and defence sector) opportunities arising from their work. Dstl is particularly keen to engage with companies innovating in smart technology. Applicants to this competition will be given the opportunity to share their proposal with Dstl.

Application process

This is a two-stage competition that opens for applicants on 16 March 2015.

Stage 1 – each applicant submits an expression of interest which is assessed.

Stage 2 – we invite selected applicants to submit an application.

The registration deadline is noon on 29 April 2015. The deadline for expressions of interest is noon on 6 May 2015. The second stage deadline for invited applications is noon on 25 June 2015.

Applications are assessed on individual merit by an independent panel of experts.

Details of consortia-building events can be found at http://bit.ly/1GJ2ckI

There will be a briefing for potential applicants in London on 25 March 2015 to highlight the main features of the competition and to explain the application process. Applicants are strongly recommended to attend this event. Please register for the event at http://connect.innovateuk.org/events

More information

For more information and all the documents you need to read before you apply, including the Guidance for Applicants, go to the web page for this competition at http://interact.innovateuk.org

To apply you must first register with us through the competition page on the website. Registration opens when the competition opens and closes a week before the deadline for expressions of interest.

Help for SMEs to grow faster

Small businesses that combine the funding they receive from us with additional business support are more likely to grow faster. If you are an SME and receive funding through this competition, you will automatically gain access to a growth workshop, an online diagnostic and a growth expert to help you develop a growth plan. This may include coaching, mentoring and entrepreneurial skills training.



As part of the application process all applicants are asked to submit a public description of the project. This should adequately describe the project but not disclose any information that may impact on intellectual property, is confidential or commercially sensitive. The titles of successful projects, names of organisations, amounts awarded and the public description will be published once the decision to offer an award has been communicated to applicants by email. Information about unsuccessful project applications will remain confidential and will not be made public.

Email pressoffice@innovateuk.gov.uk with any queries.