• Status: Closed

  • Key features: Investment of up to £4 million in collaborative research and development (R&D) projects that tackle the growing risks of disruption to internet-enabled businesses and their digital supply chains.

  • Programme: Collaborative research and development

  • Award: Up to £4 million 

  • Opens: 23 Mar 2015, 00:00

  • Registration closes: 29 Apr 2015, 12:00

  • Closes: 06 May 2015, 12:00

  • Support phone number: 0300 321 4357

Protecting data in industry


Innovate UK is to invest up to £4 million in collaborative research and development (R&D) projects that tackle the growing risks of disruption to internet-enabled businesses and their digital supply chains.

With the Internet of Things providing new sources of data and end-users' ever-increasing digital footprint, it is difficult to adequately protect the interests of a business, industry or sector. There is also a lack of understanding of the effects disruption may have.

We are seeking proposals that address the challenge of protecting a business, industry or sector from digital disruption that could compromise data across the digital supply chain.

We want to identify and fund industrial research that will strengthen the protection and resilience of such data, so businesses and the public can place higher levels of confidence in the delivery of digitally enabled business products and services.

Proposals 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).

We expect projects to range in size from total costs of £150,000 to £750,000, although we may consider projects outside this range.

This is a two-stage competition that opens for applicants on 23 March 2015. The deadline for registration is at noon on 29 April 2015.

The deadline for expressions of interest is at noon on 6 May 2015.

There will be briefing events for potential applicants in:

The London briefing event will be recorded for applicants who are unable to attend.

Key dates

Competition opens 23 March 2015
Competition briefing

25 March 2015 – Belfast

30 March 2015 – Cardiff

31 March 2015 – London

1 April 2015 – Edinburgh

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


With the rising use of digital technology across all areas of society and the economy, the sophistication of cyber attacks – and their impact – is growing faster than the ability to detect and prevent them.

What used to be an internet problem is now impacting the physical world. Manufacturing, transport and logistics, food production, healthcare, energy supply and generation and core city infrastructure all rely on the availability and accessibility of digital systems, thus creating a digital ‘supply chain' for data.

We are more connected than ever before. In 2005, 16% of the world's population was using the internet. By the end of 2014 this figure was over 40%, with an estimated 2.3 zettabytes (2.3 × 1021) of data created every day. How can this data be secured and protected so that actions taken based on its integrity and authenticity may be guaranteed? How would we be impacted if this data were lost, stolen or compromised?

Cyber security breaches can have a big impact on businesses. GCHQ's recent report ‘Common Cyber Attacks – Reducing the Impact' (https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/400106/Common_Cyber_Attacks-Reducing_The_Impact.pdf) outlines the potential consequences of breaches.

A recent survey undertaken by accounting firm PwC on behalf of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (www.pwc.co.uk/assets/pdf/cyber-security-2014-exec-summary.pdf) estimated that for small businesses the average cost of a cyber security breach is between £65,000 and £115,000. This rises to between £600,000 and £1.15 million for large organisations.

And these figures are only for direct security breaches. No economic impact assessment has yet been made for indirect costs – for example, the loss of business and consumer confidence and the damage to brand reputation.

The recent attack on Sony Pictures has highlighted the far-reaching consequences of a malicious attack on both an industry and the economy. It has highlighted the lack of preparation by organisations, with Sony Chief Executive Michael Lynton quoted as saying "There's no playbook for this", and that his firm was "adequately prepared" but "just not for an attack of this nature".



This competition seeks better ways for UK organisations to mitigate these risks when operating in a digitally enabled environment, either within the UK or globally.

These may include (but are not limited to) innovative software, hardware, infrastructure or processes that target legacy, existing or new internet-based systems that are part of an organisation's digital supply chain.

While we seek to fund industrial research and development projects to address this challenge, our primary goal is to achieve economic growth through new business success. As a result, we want to see a business model, sector or industry as the main focus of the proposed innovation.

We will therefore fund projects conducting industrial research whose outputs increase data protection, awareness and resilience:

  • in an industry: suppliers, manufacturers, distributors and service partners form a supply chain that relies on accurate, reliable and trustworthy data within (and between) each organisation in order to directly, or indirectly, produce goods (physical or digital). Data of this type includes schematics, logistical information, creative artwork, payroll and employee details and passwords
  • between different sectors with their own data-reliant supply chains (e.g. transport and healthcare): the Internet of Things demonstrates the almost endless possibilities for greater collaboration between sectors. However, data not typically exposed to public networks is now being used in ‘big data' analytics across multiple organisations, which may or may not have a relationship with the original data owner. Data has become a key asset that is being traded between organisations and may come from a variety of sources, including end-users themselves 
  • for data that is to be used to make critical decisions for a business model, industry or sector: for example, what impact would compromised traffic-light data have on an autonomous vehicle? Or what would be the effects of a malicious attack on the stock market where the decimal point is shifted forwards one place?
In assessing project applications against this scope, we will ask the following questions:
  • does the project address current and/or future digital disruption relevant to a particular business model, sector or industry?
  • is there a clear benefit of the success of your innovation for an end-user (consumer or business)?
  • are impacts such as political, economic, social, technological, legal and environmental impacts clearly understood and addressed?
This project is aimed at increasing protection, awareness, resilience and confidence in the ability of an internet-enabled business to conduct operations more securely, for the benefit of all its stakeholders.


It is not specifically aimed at issues related to complying with the law on securing personal data, trust and privacy. Guidance for businesses on legal requirements for data protection has been published by the Information Commissioner's Office (https://ico.org.uk/for-organisations/guide-to-data-protection/principle-7-security/).

Funding allocation and project details

We have allocated up to £4 million to fund collaborative R&D projects that address the technical challenges outlined in the scope.

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.

For this competition projects must be business-led and collaborative. They should last 1 to 2 years. We are primarily seeking to fund industrial research with a business partner attracting 50% public funding for their project costs (60% for SMEs).

We expect total eligible project costs to range in size from £150,000 to £750,000. We may consider larger projects but applicants should contact us directly before making their application to discuss further.

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

Application process

This is a two-stage competition that opens for applicants on 23 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 deadline for registration is noon on 29 April 2015. The deadline for expressions of interest is noon on 6 May 2015The second stage deadline for invited applications is noon on 25 June 2015.

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

The Knowledge Transfer Network will be holding briefing and collaboration workshops after the announcement of this competition. Information on these can be found on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/company/digital-economy

There will be a briefing for potential applicants in Belfast on 25 March 2015, Cardiff on 30 March 2015, London on 31 March 2015 and Edinburgh on 1 April 2015, to highlight the main features of the competition and explain the application process. Applicants are strongly recommended to attend an event. You can register for these events at http://connect.innovateuk.org/events


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 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.