• Status: Closed

  • Key features: Investment of up to £4.5m in collaborative R&D projects that seek to increase the recovery of valuable materials from waste streams.

  • Programme: Collaborative research and development

  • Award: Up to £4.5m

  • Opens: 12 Jan 2015, 00:00

  • Registration closes: 18 Feb 2015, 12:00

  • Closes: 25 Feb 2015, 12:00

  • Support phone number: 0300 321 4357

Recovering valuable materials from waste

Competition results

See the competition results here.


Innovate UK and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) are to invest up to £4.5m in collaborative R&D projects that seek to increase the recovery of valuable materials from waste streams.
The aim of this competition is to improve processes to increase the value of resources recovered from continuously produced waste. Energy from waste is excluded, as the focus is on maximising the value of materials.
Proposals must be collaborative and led by a business managing the target waste stream. 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 last up to 24 months and to have total costs of up to £800k.
This is a two-stage competition that opens for applicants on 12 January 2015. The deadline for registration is at noon on 18 February 2015 and the deadline for expressions of interest is at noon on 25 February 2015.
A briefing event and partnering workshop for potential applicants will be held on 14 January 2015.


The global waste and recycling market is currently worth around $1tr. The waste sector in the UK was valued at over £12bn in 2011, with an annual growth rate of between 3% and 4%.

A material recovery industry has been evolving from a waste management infrastructure that was designed for efficient transport to landfill. Recycling rates are slowing as the limits of this system are reached.

According to WRAP (Waste & Resources Action Programme), only around 22% of the resource flows in the UK are fed back in to the economic cycle, and more than £5bn worth of recovered materials are sent abroad for reprocessing.

Manufacturers need to respond to rising raw material costs, increasing volatility in raw material availability and the environmental impact of raw material acquisition and product disposal. These factors directly affect their viability and profitability. This has led to an increased demand for recycled and recovered resources.



The aim of this competition is to develop processes for dealing with continuously produced waste streams to maximise the value of recovered resources.

Proposals should describe how they seek to maximise the value of outputs and, for this reason, those solely seeking to recover energy from waste are out of scope. Projects focused on product-return approaches, such as remanufacture, refurbishment and leasing, are also out of scope.

Potential areas include (but are not limited to): improved collection schemes techniques for identification of materials and parts identification and processing of waste materials at speed real-time monitoring of contaminants recovery of valuable resources from wastewater or factory effluent production of high-value chemicals or materials from agri or bio-waste (excluding via biological processes). Included within the scope of this competition is investigation of new business models.

For proposals exploring new material streams or products from waste, the inclusion of potential customers in the project is encouraged.

Studies within our The Great Recovery project have shown the value of bringing design expertise into waste facilities. Incorporation of design elements into projects is encouraged in this competition.

Applicants should clearly describe where revenue generation and growth will occur in the UK as a result of the innovation and its exploitation. The benefits of the new approach should be quantified as far as possible, and any assumptions regarding market size and environmental impacts described and justified.



Funding allocation and project details

We have allocated up to £4m 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 collaborative and must be led by a business managing the target waste stream. They should last one-to-two 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 projects to range in size from £300k to £800k total project costs. We may consider larger projects but applicants should contact us directly to discuss further before making their application. EPSRC will contribute up to £500k, which may be available for parts of projects (work packages) where there is a significant high-quality academic research component, and in particular for those projects that build on, or are complementary to, existing EPSRC research programmes. These include the work of EPSRC Centres for Innovative Manufacturing, and other programmes funded through the EPSRC Manufacturing the Future theme.

Applicants invited to apply for stage 2 of this competition are advised to identify any potential EPSRC fundable work packages in their stage 2 application.



Application process

This is a two-stage competition that opens for applicants on 12 January 2015.

  • Stage 1 – Applicants submit an expression of interest which is assessed.
  • Stage 2 – We invite selected applicants to submit an application. All applicants must first register via our website by noon 18 February 2015.

The deadline for expressions of interest is noon 25 February 2015.

The second stage deadline for invited applications is noon 15 April 2015.

Applications are assessed on individual merit by an independent panel of experts. We may apply a portfolio approach across the themes/areas, subject to applications meeting the required quality threshold.

The Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) has a collaboration site for the competition where you can find more information and connect with potential partners.

A briefing for potential applicants will be held on 14 January 2015 to highlight the main features of the competition and explain the application process. Applicants are strongly recommended to attend this event.

Note: All deadlines are at noon.


Key dates

  • Competition opens: 12 January 2015
  • Competition briefing: 14 January 2015
  • Registration deadline: 18 February 2015 noon
  • Expressions of interest (EOI) deadline: 25 February 2015 noon
  • Stage 2 opens for invited applicants: 16 March 2015
  • Deadline for invited applications: 15 April 2015 noon

More information

Registration opens when the competition opens and closes a week before the deadline for applications. 


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