• Status: Closed

  • Key features: Investment of up to £5m in highly innovative collaborative research and development that encourages the development and application of sustainable materials, products and processes.

  • Programme: Collaborative research and development

  • Award: Up to £5m

  • Opens: 04 Mar 2013

  • Registration closes: 17 Apr 2013

  • Closes: 24 Apr 2013

  • Support phone number: 0300 321 4357

Materials innovation for a sustainable economy

Competition results

The results of this competition are now available; click here for a PDF of the winning project proposals.


The Technology Strategy Board is to invest up to £5m in highly innovative collaborative research and development that encourages the development and application of sustainable materials, products and processes. 
Our aim is to support materials technologies that rapidly meet urgent and difficult environmental and social challenges and that create wealth for the UK through the development and implementation of new or improved materials, processes and products. 
Proposals must be collaborative and business-led and include at least one small and medium-sized enterprise (SME). 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). 
Projects must last between 12 and 24 months and we expect total project sizes to be between £250k and £750k, although projects outside this range will be considered. This is a two-stage competition that opens for applicants on 4 March 2013. The deadline for registration is at noon on 17 April 2013 and the deadline for expressions of interest is at noon on 24 April 2013
A briefing event for potential applicants will be held on 5 March 2013Take part in the Materials Innovation for a Sustainable Economy Competition Briefing by Webinar.
Please note: there will be a partnering event on 7 March 2013. Register for the Partnering Event - TSB Resource Efficiency Funding Calls event


UK businesses have a significant market opportunity to develop products and processes that make better use of resources in a world that increasingly recognises the major environmental and social impacts of products and materials, and in which competition for resources is getting keener all the time. 
The international competition for resources has profound consequences for UK businesses. In a recent survey of its members by the manufacturers' organisation EEF, more than 80% of chief executives said that raw materials' shortages were a risk to their business in 2012. The Confederation of British Industry notes that 75% of European entrepreneurs have seen the material costs of their business rise over the last five years, and 87% expect prices to continue rising over the next decade.
Businesses increasingly recognise that more efficient use of resources across the supply chain brings not only cost savings and lower supply risks, but also presents opportunities for growth as customers demand products that save them money and reduce environmental and social impacts. 
While considerable progress has been made in areas such as recycling and material recovery over the last decade, most material flows in the UK economy are still based on a linear model of ‘take-make-dispose'. We need to go beyond better and more efficient recycling of materials and towards systemic approaches where products (and the materials they contain) are designed to generate economic value over multiple product lives.
Leading companies recognise that moving to an economy that is predominantly circular presents substantial opportunities for cost reduction, mitigation of supply risks and for their products or services to stand out in the market as sustainable. An economic analysis conducted for the Ellen MacArthur Foundation concluded that the circular economy represents an economic opportunity exceeding $340bn a year in the EU. 
At the same time, we need to reduce environmental impacts on a lifecycle basis. For example, products may be designed to a more durable, higher specification and supported by a business model based on servicing them or that allows them to be remanufactured or disassembled into high-value products or materials. In the circular economy, brand-owners or manufacturers will increasingly think in terms of managing the material resource over the life cycle as a strategic means to maximise value and mitigate exposure to price volatility and/or materials supply risks. 
For some material resources, there may be concerns over possible non-availability or interruption of future supply. In June 2010, the European Union published an analysis of 41 minerals and metals, from which 14 categories of ‘critical raw materials' were identified as being of particular concern based on their economic importance and supply risk – antimony, beryllium, cobalt, fluorspar, gallium, germanium, graphite, indium, magnesium, niobium, platinum group metals, rare earths, tantalum and tungsten. 
Many of the materials identified are important for the manufacture of high- tech or clean-tech products, which are in turn vital for economic growth. For other materials, future regulation or supply chain pressure may mean that businesses need to consider alternative approaches. 


The collaborative research and development projects must aim to offer specific or generic solutions to at least one of the following three high-level challenges: 

  • materials technology innovation supporting the development of products and services for a ‘circular economy' 
  • technologies for the processing/ reprocessing of materials with reduced environmental impact (in terms of energy or other impacts) 
  • the substitution/reduction of materials which are scarce, difficult to source, expensive or harmful to health and the environment and/or whose use may be restricted through future regulation or legislation (for example Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation & restriction of CHemicals [REACH]). 
Proposals should address one or more of the high-level challenges through a range of approaches, including but not limited to: 
  • the more effective use of existing structural and functional materials (across all material types) and processes through, for example, better design 
  • improved processes for the recovery and reuse of materials, products or their components, especially for high-value applications 
  • technologies that support better resource management of materials through the product lifecycle. For example, this could include the use of embedded data or identifiers for the purposes of brand assurance (indicating provenance or ownership), condition management (to support a service proposition such as remanufacturing), or for the segregation of materials/ components into high-value streams for efficient recycling/reuse 
  • the development of new assembly and disassembly technologies to enable components and high-value materials to be separated economically 
  • the development of new materials (for example, composite, multifunctional, smart, nanostructured, formulations, biobased) and processes (for example, near-net shape, additive manufacture, surface engineering) 
  • production of materials and products with lower embodied energy and/or from renewable feedstocks 
  • computational, multiscale, modelling development to support materials' selection/substitution and product design. 
This competition will support the acceleration and scaling-up of technologies from an initial laboratory proof-of-concept to a small-scale technology, process and/or product demonstration in representative environments. For this reason, all projects are expected to contain a significant technology demonstration element and a clear route to market. 
Projects should clearly describe and ideally quantify the environmental benefits that can be expected as a result of the innovation over the product lifecycle (or up to the finished product for process-related projects). 

Funding allocation and project details

The Technology Strategy Board has allocated up to £5m to fund highly innovative collaborative research and development projects that address one or more of the high-level challenge areas indicated in the competition scope.
All proposals must address how the project will make a significant positive contribution in terms of economic, environmental and social impacts, taking into account the full product lifecycle. We particularly encourage projects that can demonstrate benefits across more than one business sector, and all projects should include a strong supply- chain based collaboration so that new ideas can be developed and exploited in a timely fashion. 
Projects must be collaborative and business- led and include at least one SME. Universities and research organisations, including research and technology organisations (RTOs) 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). Projects must last between 12 and 24 months and should deliver a tangible outcome, such as a small-scale technology demonstration or pilot system or process demonstrator and generally aim to implement significant business change in a one-to-three-year timeframe post project completion. We expect total project sizes to be between £250k and £750k, although projects outside this range will be considered. 
All applications will be assessed on individual merit in accordance with the normal Technology Strategy Board process. However, in order to ensure coverage of the whole technology scope, we reserve the right to apply a portfolio approach, subject to applications meeting the required quality threshold. 
Successful project participants 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. 
Looking for partners to work on your project? Go to _connect to find collaborators and networks.  

Application process

This two-stage CR&D competition opens on 4 March 2013. The deadline for registration is noon on 17 April 2013, and expressions of interest (EOIs) must be submitted by noon on 24 April 2013. The second stage for invited applications opens on 3 June 2013 and the deadline for invited applications is at noon on 17 July 2013
A briefing for applicants will be held in 5 March 2013 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. 

More information

To apply for this competition you must first register with us. You can do this by going to the web page for this competition at www.innovateuk.org under Competitions. 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. 
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 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. 

Key dates

  • Competition opens: 4 March 2013  
  • Briefing and consortium building event: 5 March 2013
  • Registration deadline: 17 April 2013 noon  
  • Expressions of interest (EOI) deadline: 24 April 2013 noon  
  • Stage 2 opens (for invited applicants): 3 June 2013
  • Deadline for invited applications: 17 July 2013 noon