• Status: Closed

  • Key features: Investment of up to £2m in innovative R&D projects, with a focus on the materials and manufacturing cluster of businesses in the North West.

  • Programme: Launchpad

  • Award: Up to £2m

  • Opens: 04 Mar 2013

  • Registration closes: No deadline

  • Closes: 17 Apr 2013

  • Support phone number: 0300 321 4357

Materials & Manufacturing North West Launchpad


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


The Technology Strategy Board is investing up to £2m in innovative R&D projects, with a focus on the materials and manufacturing cluster of businesses in the North West, centred around the Sci-Tech Daresbury Science and Innovation Campus and the Runcorn Heath Business & Technical Park. 
The competition aims to stimulate this hotspot of materials and manufacturing industries by enabling companies to go further and/or faster towards commercial success. We want to draw investment and people into the area, and to encourage networking to strengthen the cluster. 
We are therefore looking for projects that companies could not fund without broader support, or that may take them into new areas, and where the majority of the project activities will take place within the North West cluster.
We are offering to fund up to 60% of eligible project costs in industrial research projects, up to a maximum of £100k. We expect to fund projects that will last 12-24 months, and that are led by micro, small and medium-sized businesses in the early stages of their development. Projects can be carried out by individual companies or in collaboration with SME partners. 
An integral part of Launchpad is the offer of support to help applicants raise additional new external finance. In this competition, successful applicants will participate in a programme of business support and growth activities, including receiving support to access external finance to fund a proportion of the project costs or commercialisation of the outcomes of the project. 
The competition is being run in two stages: 
1. Video proposal – where applicants describe their idea in a two-minute video 
2. Written proposal – for shortlisted applicants, based on their video proposal. 
The competition opens for uploading video proposals on 4 March 2013
The deadline for video submission is noon on 17 April 2013


Background and challenge

The UK still has a strong and diverse manufacturing base. But companies face significant challenges in this sector: 
  •  building and sustaining the UK SME base, given a declining UK-based supply chain and increasing threats to SMEs from skills and finance shortage, together with changes in global procurement policies, and 
  •  attracting investment in manufacturing and materials technologies in the prevailing economic and cultural climate. 
SMEs are key to driving innovation in this sector, especially new start-up businesses, but these depend on access to finance to become established and grow. The relatively high capital requirements of manufacturing operations make this need greater than in other industry sectors. 
This Launchpad competition is our response to these challenges. Launchpad financing is intended to support the development of novel and sustainable materials and manufacturing competencies in the UK, through the successful start-up and growth of early-stage businesses. 
The competition focuses on the Materials & Manufacturing cluster of businesses in the North West, centred around the Sci-Tech Daresbury Science and Innovation Campus (one of the UK's two national science and innovation campuses, and a major high tech cluster) and the Runcorn Heath Business & Technical Park, which houses high tech organisations with a focus on manufacturing. If the competition is successful we will consider a wider roll-out of the approach to other clusters in the UK. 

What are Launchpads?

Launchpad competitions support business innovation through a combination of R&D project funding, business support and attracting new investment, delivered through an accessible application process.
Launchpad enables businesses to take advantage of being part of a developing cluster to realise their potential for growth. 
Launchpad aims to support the development and strengthening of clusters of innovative companies in specific sectors and geographical locations. Due to the concentration of expertise within these clusters of businesses, there are often advantages of speed and knowledge transfer which we want to encourage. We do not create the clusters, but we support the development of clusters that are already emerging in three ways: 
  • by creating opportunities for SMEs (often including those that are pre-revenue) through funding for innovative projects 
  • by working with others in the cluster to provide a programme of support (including coaching and mentoring) that helps businesses develop solid growth strategies and access finance 
  • by providing a letter of intent to fund projects that businesses can use to attract new private sector investment, as companies will probably need to raise other forms of finance (including debt or equity-based solutions) either to ‘match' the grant or to support scale-up later. 
Launchpad competitions are open to SMEs that: 
  • are in the cluster 
  • plan to start up in the cluster 
  • move into the cluster 
  • collaborate with a company already in the cluster. 
They are limited to SMEs and aimed at young and early-stage companies with significant growth ambition. 


We will fund projects that support the development and commercialisation of innovative approaches to materials and manufacturing. Funding will be provided to innovative industrial research projects that aim to develop a materials or manufacturing product, process or service, on the journey from proof-of- concept towards a prototype. 
Applicants should look at our High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Strategy 2012-15, and the Advanced Materials section of our Enabling Technologies Strategy 2012-2015.
We are seeking projects across the whole manufacturing lifecycle, from design and engineering through to process development, manufacture, service delivery and re-manufacture/ re-use, including innovation in supply/ distribution chains, risk management and new business models.
Manufacturing projects should focus on one or more of the national competencies that are identified on pages 10 and 11 of our High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Strategy 2012-15: for the purpose of this competition the skills competency is excluded. Materials projects should align with the Advanced Materials priority themes identified on page 11 of the Enabling Technologies Strategy 2012-2015
We are focusing on the existing Materials & Manufacturing cluster around Sci-Tech Daresbury and the Heath, and encourage companies within it to apply. However, the competition is open to companies across the UK, if they wish to carry out a project in the cluster. We require participants to: 
  • locate their project teams within the cluster 
  • partner with businesses in the area, or 
  • ake advantage of the facilities that are available there. 
The costs of using such facilities and office space will be considered to be eligible costs within the projects. Applicants will need to be able to justify why they should be considered as part of the cluster. 

Funding allocation and project details

We will award grants of up to £100k towards innovative industrial research projects. 
We expect that most applicants will not initially have available funds to cover the full cost of the project, and will assemble this finance within six months from external sources prior to starting their project. 
This external funding is likely to come from both traditional and alternative sources, including equity investment from business angel, venture capital or corporate investors, debt finance from banks or other lenders and development contracts with customers, suppliers or other suitable partners. A funding event at the end of the competition process will provide an opportunity to present to such investors, to secure the private funding needed to complete the project financing. 
This competition is only open to UK companies of micro, small or medium size in the early stages of their development. Your business must fit the EU definition of an SME.
We welcome applications from pre-start- ups and start-ups, provided they meet the SME requirements. Direct applications from academic institutions are not eligible; however, a spin-out that is less than 50% owned by its academic parent may be eligible, provided that it complies with the definition of an SME. Applications may be from individual SMEs or from collaborative consortia of SMEs. At the presentation event to potential investors in the autumn of 2013, there will be an opportunity for large companies and universities to take part as unfunded project partners or investors. 
We expect projects to last 12-24 months. 

Application process

This competition is being run in two stages: 

1. Video submission 

From 4 March 2013 companies will be able to submit a two-minute video describing their ideas, which will be accompanied by a brief application form. The video should address: 
  • the challenge or opportunity being tackled and why it is important 
  • the approach that will be taken and how it is innovative 
  • the project's relationship to the Daresbury & Runcorn Heath cluster 
  • how the solution will be commercialised and what impact it could have if successful 
  • why the Technology Strategy Board investment is needed. 
Videos will be assessed on content, not on the quality of their production. They will be available for public viewing and comment unless applicants request otherwise. There will be an independent panel of expert assessors, who will review the ideas and select a shortlist. All video submissions must remain accessible throughout the assessment period. 

2. Written proposal 

On the basis of the video assessment, a number of proposals will be shortlisted and applicants invited to submit a written proposal through an application form.
These will be independently assessed, and successful applicants will be awarded a letter of intent for grant funding, subject to being able to secure the additional funds needed for the project within six months. The selected projects will receive grants of up to £100K from the Technology Strategy Board. 
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 our 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 for registration and for Stage 1 (video applications): 4 March 2013
  • Briefing event for potential applicants at Daresbury: 19 March 2013
  • Stage 1 closes: noon 17 April 2013
  • Shortlisted applicants invited to Stage 2: 13 May 2013
  • Deadline for Stage 2 applications: 19 June 2013
  • Successful applicants informed of Stage 2 results: 26 July 2013
  • Business support programme: August and September 2013
  • Presentation to potential investors: Late autumn 2013