Future flight challenge phase 3: strand 1

Key Features

UK registered businesses can apply for a share of up to £65 million to develop and demonstrate integrated aviation systems and new vehicle technologies. This funding is from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund

Programme:     Innovate UK

Award:     Share of up to £65 million

Opens: 6th Sep 2021

Closes: 3rd Nov 2021

! This scheme is now closed


Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, will invest up to £65 million in innovation projects. Projects must demonstrate integrated aviation systems and vehicle technologies that enable new classes of electric or autonomous air vehicles.


The aim of this competition is to fund ambitious projects that will successfully integrate the technical, regulatory and social challenges necessary to prove new classes of electric or autonomous air vehicles.

The Future Flight Challenge is based around 3 classes of aircraft:

  1. Drones or unmanned aircraft systems (UAS)
  2. Advanced Air Mobility (AAM)
  3. Sub-regional electric or hybrid passenger aircraft

For strand 1 of the competition your project must include a means of demonstration of one or more of these classes of aircraft and enabling systems, operating in a representative environment.

You should include the participation of end users or operators in your project and engagement with appropriate local authorities would be beneficial.

A clear understanding of the regulatory requirements and proposed route to achieving regulatory approval must be demonstrated.

Innovate UK want to fund a portfolio of projects, with a variety of technologies, markets, aircraft classes, use cases and research categories across both strands of this competition.

Consideration will be given to projects with a specific regional focus and ambitions for Net Zero transport solutions.

Specific Themes

Your project must focus on demonstrating the operation of aircraft in a representative environment whilst meeting a viable and challenging use case. Use cases should be real-world applications which drive integration of the different aviation system elements for each of the three Future Flight vehicle classes.

Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • demonstrations of multiple drones, operating as a beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) service in a defined geographic area.
  • a multi-modal demonstration of different aircraft types operating in parallel providing an end-to-end solution
  • AAM vehicle operation in a representative environment
  • scheduled sub-regional electric flights over a representative route


Interested in applying for this competition?

Book a 30-minute consultation

Our team are available to discuss your innovative business, your project ideas and how we can help you to write a successful application for this Grant Funding opportunity.

Use the calendar to select and book a consultation with one of our experts, at a time that’s convenient for you.


Your project must:

  • have total eligible costs between £500,000 and £15 million
  • start on 1 April 2022
  • end by 31 March 2024
  • last between 12 and 24 months
  • carry out its project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK

To lead a project your organisation must:

  • be a UK registered business of any size
  • be or involve at least one UK registered SME
  • collaborate with other UK registered businesses, academic institutions, charities, not-for-profit, public sector organisations or research and technology organisations (RTOs)

Academic institutions cannot lead.

To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must be one of the following UK registered:

  • business of any size
  • academic institution
  • charity
  • not-for-profit
  • public sector organisation
  • research and technology organisation (RTO)

Subcontractors are allowed in this competition.

You can use a previously submitted application to apply for this competition.

Innovate UK will not award you funding if you have:

  • failed to exploit a previously funded project
  • an overdue independent accountant’s report
  • failed to comply with grant terms and conditions

Funding Costs

Innovate UK have allocated up to £65 million to fund innovation projects across the two strands of this competition.

If the majority of your organisation’s work on the project is commercial or economic, your funding request must not exceed the limits below. These limits apply even if your organisation normally acts non-economically.

For industrial research projects, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • up to 70% if you are a micro or small organisation
  • up to 60% if you are a medium-sized organisation
  • up to 50% if you are a large organisation

For experimental development projects which are nearer to market, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • up to 45% if you are a micro or small organisation
  • up to 35% if you are a medium-sized organisation
  • up to 25% if you are a large organisation


Innovate UK are not funding projects that:

  • are a development of systems or sub-systems for application to large civil passenger aircraft
  • do not include any form of demonstration
  • have no plan for engagement with an end-user or operator
  • are developing sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) for gas turbine or turboprop aircraft
  • focus solely on defence or space applications
  • are dependent on export performance – for example, giving a subsidy to a baker on the condition that they export a certain quantity of bread to another country
  • are dependent on domestic inputs usage – for example, if they insisted that a baker use 50% UK flour in their product

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