• Status: Closed

  • Key features: Innovate UK and BBSRC are to invest up to £2.5 million in feasibility studies to encourage better management and use of biofilms.

  • Programme: Feasibility studies

  • Award: Up to £2.5 million

  • Opens: 15 Jun 2015, 00:00

  • Registration closes: 09 Sep 2015, 12:00

  • Closes: 16 Sep 2015, 12:00

  • Support phone number: 0300 321 4357

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The management and use of Biofilms

Competition results


BBSRC logo

Innovate UK and BBSRC are to invest up to £2.5 million in feasibility studies to encourage better management and use of biofilms.

This funding will enable organisations with biofilm problems to engage effectively with universities, research organisations and other companies to develop novel solutions. We also wish to support exploration of the use of biofilms for beneficial purposes and accelerate the transfer of knowledge of model systems from research to real­ world challenges and opportunities, in vivo and in situ.

Biofilms, groups of microorganisms held together in a matrix and attached to a surface, occur everywhere, for example on ships' hulls or people's teeth. The aim of this competition is to support:
  • the development of novel applications of technology and new solutions to specific biofilm challenges
  • the development of processes, tools and techniques to exploit biofilms for beneficial applications
  • the translation of knowledge of model biofilm systems into technology, tools and techniques with broad, generic or cross­-sector potential
These feasibility studies must be led by a business. Projects are open to companies of any size, working alone or in collaboration with other companies, universities or research organisations.
Small businesses could receive up to 70% of their eligible project costs, medium­ sized businesses 60% and large businesses 50%.
We expect projects to last up to 12 months and have total costs of up to £100,000, although we may consider projects beyond this.

This competition opens on 15 June 2015 and the deadline for applications is at noon on 16 September 2015. There will be a briefing day for potential applicants in London on 18 June 2015

Consortium building workshops will be held in:

To register your interest in these workshops, contact Biofilms@ktn-uk.org

Supporting documents & links


Biofilms are everywhere and can be defined as any group of microorganisms adhering to each other within a matrix and attached to a surface. Examples of situations where attached biofilms have negative impacts include:
  • ship hulls and marine structures, increasing drag and leading to corrosion
  • teeth and gums,giving rise to dental decay
  • catheters and other medical implants, causing infection
  • pipes and vessels, leading to contaminated products in the process industries
They can also be used beneficially, for example:
  • to treat sewage and reclaim contaminated land
  • to protect against infection and accelerate wound healing
Recent advances in surface engineering, synthetic and molecular biology, genetic modification and physical approaches to management offer new ways to control biofilms. There is also the potential to develop beneficial applications of biofilms, for example to treat waste streams, enhance health, protect assets and synthesise molecules.
Globally, the impact of damage associated with biofilms is estimated to cost between 2 and 3% of GDP in developed economies but, over the past decade, substantial investment in research now enables us to dramatically change the way in which we manage and use biofilms. As a result, new market opportunities are emerging, which are already estimated to be worth £2 billion globally by 2020.
Some of the outcomes of this competition will be used to highlight cross­-sector challenges and opportunities for the novel application of biofilm science, and to highlight gaps in our understanding of basic biofilm science. These results will inform the planned further investment in a national programme on biofilms, which is currently being developed by BBSRC and Innovate UK. The need for a national programme in the area was identified at a strategic workshop held by BBSRC and Innovate UK in December 2014. At the workshop, representatives from six industry sectors and a small group of academics identified a multitude of pre­-competitive and commercial topics for consideration, which have been used to inform the scope of this competition.


We aim to fund projects that explore:
  • the development of novel applications of technology and new solutions to specific biofilm challenges
  • the development of processes, tools and techniques to exploit biofilms for beneficial applications
  • the translation of knowledge of model biofilm systems into technology, tools and techniques with broad, generic or cross­-sector potential
Opportunities, challenges and solutions could include, but are not limited to, those shown below.

Example challenges and opportunities

  • Processing: reducing contamination in processing, for example in food and drink, chemicals and pharmaceuticals
  • Marine: novel marine engineering and naval architecture solutions to reduce biofilm growth and subsequent corrosion and drag, for example on oil rigs, wind farms, pipelines and vessels
  • Waste treatment:including more efficient treatment of sewage, contaminated land and air purification
  • Healthcare:including prevention of infection/decay and promotion of wound healing

Example solutions

  • Materials,surface engineering and coatings, including protective biofilms
  • Control techniques: biological,chemical, physical, energy (heat, light, sound)
  • Process management and quality control to reduce biofilm creation

Other opportunities

  • Reactors and systems for cell and colony factories based on biofilms
  • Biofilms as sensors
  • CO2 capture and storage 
  • Pollutant removal

Technology and solutions with broad, generic or cross-­sector potential

  • Sensing
  • Sampling
  • Testing
  • Quantification
  • Characterisation
Applicants are expected to demonstrate a clear commercial application of the technology, and a credible plan to develop it and put it to use. Projects should include one or more companies able to implement or apply the knowledge resulting from the feasibility study.

Out of Scope

In this competition we are not funding projects relating to organisms in a free­ floating or planktonic state, gut biofilms and flora (human or animal), and fundamental research.

Funding allocation and project details

We have allocated up to £2.5 million to fund feasibility studies in this competition.
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 size and type of organisation involved.
Small businesses are eligible to receive up to 70% of their project costs as grant, medium­ sized businesses 60% and large businesses 50%. For further information see http://interact.innovateuk.org/-/funding­-rules
We expect total project costs to be up to £100,000. Projects should last up to 12 months. We may consider larger projects, but applicants should contact us directly before submitting an application for a larger project.
To find out if your business fits the EU definition of an SME, see: http://ec.europa.eu/growth/smes/business-friendly-environment/sme-definition/index_en.htm

Application process

This competition will open on 15 June 2015. Applicants must first register via our website. The deadline for registration is at noon on 9 September 2015 while the deadline for applications is at noon on 16 September 2015.
There will be a briefing in London on 18 June 2015 to highlight the main features of the competition and to explain the application process. Applicants are strongly recommended to attend.
Consortium building workshops will be held in:
  • Nottingham on 1 May 2015 
  • Bristol on 13 May 2015 
  • Glasgow on 15 May 2015
You can register for these and any other events at connect.innovateuk.org/events
Note: all deadlines are at noon.
Get help to understand the future market for your innovation before you apply at http://horizons.innovateuk.org

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.

More information

For more information watch our applications process video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-rnSpIMiPc)
Each partner in a project can receive funding towards their project costs – the funding is a percentage of the total eligible project costs and varies, depending on the size and type of organisation and the type of research. For general guidance see: https://interact.innovateuk.org/-/funding-rules or watch our video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cExDpxTL8JY)
To apply you must first register with us through this competition page. Registration opens when the competition opens and closes a week before the deadline for applications.
Innovate UK also runs regular Collaboration Nation events. They enable companies that have been successful in feasibility studies competitions to showcase the results of their projects to their peers and others, with a view to finding new partners to collaborate with and new sources of funding. For more information search for ‘Collaboration Nation' at www.innovateuk.gov.uk
Competition helpline: 0300 321 4357


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.