• Status: Closed

  • Key features: Investment of up to £5m for collaborative research and development to preserve the value of products and/or materials at end-of-life and to extend their use.

  • Programme: Collaborative research and development

  • Award: Up to £5m

  • Opens: 04 Nov 2013, 00:00

  • Registration closes: 11 Dec 2013, 12:00

  • Closes: 18 Dec 2013, 12:00

  • Support phone number: 0300 321 4357

Supply chain innovation towards a circular economy

Competition results

The results of this competition are now available; see the PDF of the winning project proposals.


The Technology Strategy Board is to invest up to £5m in collaborative research and development that aims to preserve the value of products and/or materials at end-of-life and keeps them in productive use for longer. We are seeking proposals that reduce environmental impact of material lifecycles and dependence on materials with a supply risk, in other words proposals that make supply chains more circular. Proposals should aim to cut general waste stream losses in half – or more. 
Proposals must be collaborative and led by a business in a position to make a supply chain more circular. Applicants are encouraged to consider potential contributions from the design sector in their proposals. We are offering our Design Option with this competition. For more information see www.innovateuk.org/design-option-information-RE
Projects may last up to 24 months and may have total costs of up to £1m. 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 small and medium-sized enterprises – SMEs). 
This is a two-stage process that opens for applicants on 4 November 2013. The deadline for registration is at noon on 11 December 2013 and the deadline for expressions of interest is at noon on 18 December 2013


Economies and businesses are trying to achieve growth while reducing use of resources for two reasons: 
  • supply risks for key resources (security of supply and price volatility) 
  • increasing environmental impact of material extraction.
Population growth, rising consumption, scarcity of resources, access difficulties and supply disruption are combining to increase pressure on resources. For example, according to McKinsey Global Institute, demand for steel is set to rise 80% between 2010 and 2030. 
The energy requirements and carbon emissions associated with extraction of primary materials are also increasing. According to a Green Alliance report, production of metals is predicted to account for as much as 40% of the world's energy use by 2050. 
But at the same time only around 22% of the resource flows in the UK are fed back into the economic cycle and as much as 80% of products are discarded after a single use. 
A major strategy for achieving more sustainable use of resources is to move towards a more ‘circular' economy in which materials are used many times and where the quality and economic value of those materials are maintained at a high level. This transition would benefit companies with, for example, substantial opportunities for cost reduction and mitigation of supply risks. An economic analysis conducted for the Ellen MacArthur Foundation concluded that the circular economy represents an economic opportunity exceeding USD $340bn a year at EU level for the medium complex goods sector alone. 
The main issue for manufacturers in moving to a circular economy is getting materials back. This competition targets improving the recovery of valuable materials in supply chains to reduce the global environmental impact of materials that we use and our dependence on key raw materials. 
Applicants may wish to refer to the Great Recovery website for information on design approaches for a circular economy and to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation for information on the business benefits of and different approaches to a circular economy. 


We are inviting proposals for business-led collaborative research and development projects to recover products and/or materials at the end of their life to retain their value and keep them in productive use for longer. We wish to support projects led by a business that is in a position to change a supply chain and make it more circular. 
We are particularly interested in maximising retained value at the end of a product's life before material enters a general waste stream where separation becomes more difficult. For this reason, energy from waste and low-value end uses such as aggregates are excluded. Included within the scope of this competition are investigation of novel design approaches and new business models. 
Projects should describe how they will retain value and reduce losses to general waste streams. Value can be retained, for example by shifting to circular business models such as leasing (maintenance and reuse) and remanufacturing or through secondary uses of captured materials (recycling). 
We are seeking high-impact projects and proposals should seek to cut general waste stream losses for a product type by at least half. It is expected projects will feature new collaborations creating new supply chains that enable greater value creation or cost savings. 
Proposals should be for innovative, collaborative work, and will be assessed according to the normal criteria that may be found in the Guidance Notes for Applicants. 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. 
Successful projects are likely to incorporate a significant design component, both to ensure environmental performance and to include design attributes such as desirability, usability and feasibility. To help applicants understand the potential contribution of design to their proposal, we are offering our Design Option with this competition. 

What is the Design Option? 

The Design Option offers applicants free access to design mentors before submitting an expression of interest. The role of the design mentors is to help applicants to embed a holistic approach to design into a project at the earliest stages and throughout. Design mentors will provide information to your consortium about design, and examples of how early use of design has benefitted other projects. 
Applicants for the Design Option must be considering taking the lead in a consortium to apply for this competition. Only one request per organisation can be made for the Design Option. 
Requests for the Design Option can be made from 19 September 2013. This is a limited offer that will be awarded on a ‘first-come first-served' basis up to a maximum of 25 awards. Requests will not be accepted after 25 October 2013 or after the maximum 25 awards are made, whichever comes sooner. All design mentoring work must be completed by 22 November 2013
To request the design option, the lead participant should visit www.innovateuk.org/design-option-information-RE

Funding allocation and project details

The Technology Strategy Board has allocated up to £5m to fund highly innovative collaborative research and development projects that meet the requirements of the competition scope. 
Projects must be collaborative and business-led. Universities and research organisations, including research and technology organisations and Catapults, are eligible as partners but their portion of the project costs will be capped at 30% of the total. We are primarily seeking to fund industrial research with a business partner attracting 50% public funding for their project costs (60% for SMEs). The maximum value of projects is £1m and the maximum duration of projects is 24 months. 

Looking for partners to work on your project? 

Go to _connect to find collaborators and networks.
Networking support and relevant content can be accessed through the site for this competition on _connect: http://connect.innovateuk.org/web/collaborations-circular-economy

Application process

This is a two stage competition that opens for applicants on 4 November 2013. 
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 on 11 December 2013. The deadline for expressions of interest is noon 18 December 2013
The second stage deadline for invited applications is at noon on 20 February 2014
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. 
Our sustainability tool, Horizons, is free for you to use in considering the environmental, political and social drivers for your project: http://horizons.innovateuk.org. For support in using Horizons, please email Clare Martynski at C.Martynski@ forumforthefuture.org 
Applicants are encouraged to attend one of the competition networking events in advance of application. More details at: http://connect.innovateuk.org/web/collaborations-circular-economy/events 
For information on the design option see https://www.innovateuk.org/design
A briefing for applicants will be held in London on 3 October 2013 and Manchester on 21 October 2013 to highlight the main features of the competition and explain the application process. Applicants are strongly recommended to attend one of these events. 
Note: All deadlines are at noon. 

More information

To apply for this competition you must first register with us.  When you register you will get access to all the supporting information you need to read before you apply, including the Guidance for Applicants and the application form. 

Key dates

  • Register for the briefing event in London - this event is now fully booked, however, there is a waiting list: 3 October 2013
  • Register for the briefing event in Manchester21 October 2013
  • Competition opens: 4 November 2013
  • Competition briefing webinar: 14 November 2013
  • Registration deadline: 11 December 2013 noon
  • Expressions of interest (EoI) deadline: 18 December 2013 noon
  • Stage 2 opens (for invited applicants): 20 January 2014
  • Deadline for invited applications: 20 February 2014 noon


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 award is confirmed as final. Information about unsuccessful project applications will remain confidential and will not be made public.
E-mail: pressoffice@tsb.gov.uk with any queries.