• Status: Closed

  • Key features: Investment of up to £6m in collaborative R&D projects and feasibility studies to accelerate the proving and commercial application of a wide range of recent or emerging manufacturing technologies involving mechanical conversion processes such as machining, casting, forging, moulding and joining.

  • Programme: Collaborative research and development

  • Award: Up to £6m

  • Opens: 16 Jun 2014, 00:00

  • Registration closes: 27 Aug 2014, 12:00

  • Closes: 03 Sep 2014, 12:00

  • Support phone number: 0300 321 4357

« go back

Mechanical conversion manufacturing processes - Collaborative R&D

Competition results

See here for the competition results.


The Technology Strategy Board is to invest £6m in collaborative R&D projects and feasibility studies to accelerate the proving and commercial application of a wide range of recent or emerging manufacturing technologies involving mechanical conversion processes such as machining, casting, forging, moulding and joining.

The main aim of this competition is to help companies of all sizes overcome the technical and business challenges of transforming novel technologies and leading-edge application knowledge into robust, competitive manufacturing capabilities and business processes. Successful projects will be driven by industrial needs and delivered through collaborative innovation teams, often involving new sources of expertise and organisations that have not previously worked together.

We are primarily seeking to fund collaborative research and development (industrial research), with a business partner attracting 50% public funding for their project costs (60% for SMEs). Projects must be business-led and have at least two companies as funded partners, one of whom should represent the supply chain. We expect projects to last up to three years and range in size from £350k to £1.2m.

Up to £1m will be available for smaller-scale feasibility studies (or pre-industrial research). These attract public funding of up to 65% of project costs (75% for SMEs). Feasibility studies must also be business-led and can involve a single company or be collaborative. We expect feasibility studies to range in size from £50k to £120k and for projects to last up to one year.  

The competition opens for both types of project on 16 June 2014. The deadline for registration is noon on 27 August 2014 and the deadline for applications or expressions of interest is noon on 3 September 2014.

A briefing event and webinar for potential applicants will be held in London on 17 June 2014



Manufacturing contributes over £6.7tr to the global economy, and the UK is a major competitor, ranking in the world's top 10 in terms of manufacturing gross value added (GVA). Manufacturing generates 10% of UK GVA. It directly employs 2.5 million people and represents half of UK exports.

Mechanical conversion processes cover a wide range of production methods, including machining, forging, forming and casting, and a variety of joining processes including fastenings and welding. Areas with significant innovation potential include net or near-net shape forming (for example, hot isostatic pressing, and flow forming), robotic and intelligent machining capabilities and the automated fabrication of high-performance metal components by recently developed techniques such as linear friction welding.

Alongside all these core processes are important business drivers that are forcing the pace for manufacturing competitiveness on a global basis. These include:

  • increased efficiency and ‘right first time' processes
  • reduced material waste and energy consumption
  • the increasing need for efficient processing of recycled materials
  • elimination of rare and hazardous materials
  • working with new high-performance materials that are harder to machine and to form.

The rapid exploitation of new sensors, IT and data analysis capability is a significant contributor to manufacturing competitiveness and can quickly provide big step-change improvements in process control, yield rates, levels of process integration and overall productivity. Underpinning the commercial success of many new manufacturing solutions is the development and acceptance of new standards for materials, systems and production processes.



We are looking for innovative manufacturing projects that focus on novel mechanical conversion processes that can be applied at scale, economically and efficiently. This includes the application of new primary and secondary mechanical conversion technologies and processes, for example, innovative production methods for new or recycled material specifications, low-energy forming/forging, tool-less and one-shot manufacturing, new machine tool technologies, precision water jet machining, debris removal and mechanical joining technologies.

The project must be focused on a mechanical conversion process, and the main innovation activity may be in the core process itself, or in the way the process is controlled, or in the materials used, or a combination of these.

Thermal, laser and other energy-enabled mechanical processes are also in scope, including, for example, welding to titanium and magnesium. We are particularly keen to increase the range of mechanical processes that can be combined and integrated in a single physical or logical production process. In contrast, we are also keen to see novel solutions that are more agile or portable, such as parallel kinematic machining.

Although the technical scope is the same for feasibility studies and collaborative R&D projects, we would expect the former to focus mainly on proof of concept activities around a single technology or method. Collaborative R&D projects should demonstrate how already proven concepts are capable of delivering robust production methods and explore their potential to become an effective and competitive manufacturing solution.

Ideally, the consortium partners for a collaborative R&D project will have the combined capability to innovate in design, simulation, machine/tooling specifications, and process measurement/verification, and to address market competitiveness, supply chain issues and the business model.

Production techniques that use less energy, processes that can use waste or recycled materials, or novel business model and supply chain solutions that will add more value to a manufacturing and service proposal are in scope and may represent a significant proportion of the innovation risk, effort and costs. Our sustainability tool, Horizons, is free for you to use in considering the environmental, political and social drivers for your project.

Projects focused on joining technologies can include the mechanical joining of all types of composites. Hybrid projects focused on production capability combining additive and subtractive technologies within a physically and logically integrated system are in scope, provided that the majority of the innovation focus and project cost is for the integration capability and not for the constituent parts in their own right.

The following types of processes are outside of the scope for this competition:

  • coatings, surface engineering and electronics, and manufacture of fibre reinforced polymer composite materials and components
  • where the primary innovation activity is with a chemical or biological reaction or transformation, or in associated formulation activities
  • ‘pure' additive manufacturing process/application innovation.

Looking for partners to work on your project?

Go to _connect to find collaborators and networks.


Funding allocation and project details

We have allocated up to £6m to fund collaborative R&D projects and feasibility studies that address the technical challenges outlined in the scope above.

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.

Collaborative R&D projects

For the collaborative R&D projects (industrial research), the business partner in the project can attract 50% public funding for their project costs (60% for SMEs). Projects must be led by a business and have at least two companies as funded partners, one of whom should represent the supply chain. We expect collaborative R&D projects to range in size from £350k to £1.2m. We may consider larger projects, but applicants should discuss this with us before making their application. Projects should last up to three years.

See whether your business fits the EU definition of an SME.

Each partner in a feasibility or collaborative R&D project can receive funding towards their project costs – the funding is a percentage of the total eligible project costs and varies, depending on the type of organisation and the type of research being undertaken. See general guidance on how projects are funded


Application process

The collaborative R&D and feasibility studies elements of this competition will open for applications on 16 June 2014.

All applicants must first register via our website, and the deadline for registration is at noon on 27 August 2014. The deadline for applications for feasibility studies is at noon on 3 September 2014.

There is a two-stage process for applications for collaborative R&D funding.

Stage 1 - Applicants submit an expression of interest which is assessed.

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

The deadline for expressions of interest is noon 3 September 2014.

The second stage deadline for invited applications is noon on 30 October 2014.

A briefing will be held in London on 17 June 2014 to highlight the main features of the competition and explain the application process. Applicants are strongly recommended to attend.


More information

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 applications.

Key dates

Stage 1
  • Competition opens: 16 June 2014
  • Briefing event: 17 June 2014
  • Registration deadline: 27 August 2014 noon
  • Deadline for receipt of EOIs: 3 September 2014 noon
Stage 2
  • Stage 2 opens for invited applicants: 29 September 2014
  • Deadline for receipt of stage 2 applications: 30 October 2014


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.

E-mail pressoffice@tsb.gov.uk with any queries.