Emerging and enabling round 3

Key Features

UK businesses can apply for a share of up to £25 million to develop innovative solutions to challenges in emerging and enabling technologies.

Programme:     Innovate UK

Award:     Receive up to £1.4m

Opens: 5th Sep 2017

Closes: 8th Nov 2017

! This scheme is now closed

The aim of this competition is to help UK businesses broaden their innovation activities, disrupt existing markets and find new revenue sources.

Projects must show significant innovation in one of these priority areas:

  • emerging technologies
  • digital
  • enabling capabilities
  • space applications

To be considered, proposals must:

  • show significant innovation in one of the  priority areas above
  • have outputs that can be applied in more than one industry, sector or market
  • improve business growth or productivity, or create export opportunities for at least one UK SME involved in the project

Where possible, all projects should take customer or user needs into account. Projects costing more than £500,000 and lasting two years or longer: if these projects do not demonstrate an understanding of the customer or user needs, they must include this as a human-centred design element within the first six months of the project.

To carry out human-centred design you should:

  • investigate the needs of important stakeholders (such as potential customers, end users, investors or delivery partners)
  • use that research to agree on the criteria for measuring success
  • explore and test possible solutions to the needs of the stakeholders, and agree on the best investment-ready idea

Where applicable, please consider the cybersecurity implications in your proposal

The themes

Emerging technologies

An emerging technology is one that is still developing from, or has only recently developed from, the research base. It allows you to do something that was impossible or only theoretical before. That means it disrupts existing markets and gives us new ways to improve our lives and generate wealth.

Your project must lead to a significant change in business performance and bring a totally new technology to market. This competition is particularly eager to fund projects in:

  • biofilms: advancing the understanding of biofilm management, control or exploitation, or applying biofilm to novel industrial applications
  • energy harvesting: scavenging energy from external sources for small portable devices
  • graphene: seeking to develop and exploit the principal properties of graphene and its utility
  • cutting-edge imaging: technologies not in commercial use (not new applications of existing technology)


You must demonstrate a significant development in, or use of, one or more of the following technologies:

  • machine learning and AI
  • cybersecurity
  • data analytics or ‘big data’
  • distributed ledger technology, such as blockchain
  • the internet of things
  • immersive media, such as virtual or augmented reality
  • 5G: innovative applications and services using enhanced mobile broadband, ultra-reliability, low latency or massive machine type communications

Enabling capabilities

Electronics, sensors and photonics (ESP)

You must propose an innovative project from across the range of ESP technologies, including:

  • electronic systems
  • large area electronics
  • power electronics
  • sensor and sensor systems
  • photonics
  • compound semiconductors

Robotics and autonomous systems

Proposals should provide significant improvements on system abilities in:

  • robotics for professional or personal service applications
  • robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) for inspection and maintenance
  • health and social care, including assistive technologies, patient care and robotic surgery
  • next generation farming
  • next generation and SME manufacturing
  • autonomous transport, including automotive, aerospace and rail applications
  • AI technologies for autonomous systems


Creative economy

Seeks innovative projects that provide a significant improvement in efficiency or user experience in the creative industries.

Space applications

This competition is looking for innovations in commercially exploitable applications of satellite data or signals. Applications are welcome from all specialisms. Innovations must involve, or relate to, the use of one or more of the following technologies:

  • satellite communications. These must be new services or applications that use satellite communications infrastructure or innovations related to the ground segment and user terminals. One area of interest is in innovations that will strengthen satellite industry links with other telecommunications sectors, including 5G
  • satellite positioning, navigation and timing. These must be new services or applications that use GNSS (global navigation satellite system). There is also an interest in innovations that address the challenges of a disruption to GNSS (technologies that protect systems using GNSS against its loss are regarded as eligible)
  • earth observation. These must be new services or applications using existing satellite infrastructure or technology that directly links to the provision of new commercial services

Projects that include development of new satellite instruments or hardware are eligible so long as they have a clear path to exploitation as part of a service or application that uses satellite data or signals.

**Eligible technology definitions**

Where applicable you must follow Innovate UK’s definitions for the following technologies:

  • Emerging technologies
  • Novel single-layer (2D) materials
  • Energy harvesting
  • Internet of Things (IoT)
  • Distributed ledger technology (DLT)
  • Cyber security
  • 5G projects
  • Robotics systems
  • Autonomous systems
  • Creative industries

For more information on these definitions, click here. 


You must:

  • be a UK based business, academic or research and technology organisation (RTO)
  • carry out your project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from the UK

All projects must involve an SME, and only an SME can lead projects below £100,000.

Any one business or RTO may lead on one application and partner in a further 2 applications.

If an RTO is:

  • the lead on an application they must have 2 business collaborators (one SME, and one other business of any size)
  • not the lead on any application, they can be a partner in any number of applications

Academics cannot lead on an application but can be a collaborator in any number of applications.


Funding and project details

Up to £15 million has been allocated to fund innovation projects in this competition

Projects with costs:

  • under £100,000 can be single or collaborative but must be led by an SME
  • over £100,000 must be collaborative and involve an SME

Up to £10 million has also ben allocated for KTPs.


Project types

Your project may focus on technical feasibility (including human centred design studies), industrial research or experimental development.

For technical feasibility studies and industrial research, you could receive up to 70% of your eligible project costs if you are an SME.  

For experimental development projects that are nearer to market, you could receive up to 45% of your eligible project costs if you are an SME

Projects will range in size from total project costs of £35,000 to £2 million. Projects must last between 3 months and 3 years.