Improving Observation Capabilities of Biodiversity in UK Waters: Phase 2

Key Features

UK registered organisations can apply for a share of up to £750,000 for innovation projects that can improve capabilities in monitoring UK marine assets with technologies that are ready to test in real-world conditions. This funding is from DEFRA.

Programme:     Innovate UK

Award:     Share of up to £750,000

Opens: 24th Jul 2023

Closes: 6th Sep 2023

! This scheme is now closed


Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, will work with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) to invest up to £1.5 million in grant funding across 3 years. This funding is for innovation projects that can improve the observation capabilities of the UK’s waters, towards improved assessment and evaluation of the status and risks to natural capital assets. These can include the data acquisition, communication, storage, analysis and modelling systems.


The aim of this competition is to test innovative technologies and approaches as part of end-to-end marine monitoring systems, from in-situ data collection through to generating insights from the data. The innovation must focus on measures of marine asset extent, condition, and human pressures. The outputs of the work must demonstrate how the data collected can be used to generate insights into ecosystem services flows from marine assets, or how these flows could be impacted by human pressures.

Innovations must be within 5 years of being integrated into real-world marine monitoring programmes or used in other sectors with application to marine monitoring. The innovation can target any part of the end-to-end monitoring system, from data collection to data processing, analysis or visualisation, but must be tested as part of a complete system.

DEFRA is looking for ways to significantly improve approaches to measure changes in the extent or condition of marine natural capital assets and provision of ecosystem services by these assets, such as by providing:

  • greater spatial or temporal coverage of data collection
  • ways to reduce the carbon emissions of end-to-end monitoring systems
  • improved efficiency, value for money or quality of data collection, processing, analysis, or visualisation

Your proposal must clearly:

  • explain which part of the end-to-end marine monitoring system you will be focusing on, for example data collection, processing, analysis or visualisation
  • explain the concept of operation and the marine environment that the targeted or final marine monitoring system will be operating in
  • describe the improvements sought, providing the measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) that will be used to determine the degree of improvement
  • describe what is innovative about your project and explain the technological maturity at the start and end of the project
  • demonstrate an understanding of what the development and testing of a complete marine monitoring system will entail
  • identify other market needs that could be met by your project’s deliverables and objectives
  • demonstrate the project’s output in the appropriate relevant environment, either the sea or laboratory

Portfolio approach
Innovate UK want to fund a variety of projects across different technologies, marine monitoring systems and technological maturities. We call this a portfolio approach.

Specific Themes

Your project must focus on one or more of the following:

Integration of innovative approaches across an end-to-end system

For example innovations in in-situ observations combined with innovations in data processing, analysis, or visualisation, to achieve efficiency gains across the whole system.

Integrated monitoring of marine assets

For example a monitoring system set up to understand interconnections between two or more assets, such as marine habitats and species. This can also include linkages between assets that span different ecosystems, such as estuaries, coast and offshore environments, or land and sea.

Innovation in approaches to monitor human pressures

Including their impacts on marine assets and the ecosystem services they provide.


Your project must:

  • have a total grant funding request of no more than £250,000
  • start by 1 February 2024
  • end by 31 October 2024
  • last up to 9 months
  • have an appropriate test site prepared
  • have appropriate operational permits or permissions to carry out the planned testing at sea
  • carry out all of its project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK

The test site must match the real-world marine conditions that the innovation is being designed for. Arranging a suitable test site is the responsibility of the applicant and should be factored into project costs.

Organisations that are applying technology used in a different sector to marine monitoring must have relevant marine science expertise on the project team, or involved in an advisory capacity, to advise on monitoring the intended marine assets.

You must only include eligible project costs in your application.

Under current restrictions, this competition will not fund any procurement, commercial, business development or supply chain activity with any Russian and Belarusian entity as lead, partner or subcontractor. This includes any goods or services originating from a Russian and Belarusian source.

Lead organisation

To lead a project or work alone your organisation must:

  • be a UK registered business of any size or a research and technology organisation (RTO)
  • be or involve at least one micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME)

More information on the different types of organisation can be found in our Funding rules.

If the lead organisation is an RTO it must collaborate with 2 businesses. These partners must include one SME and one business of any size.

Academic institutions cannot lead or work alone.

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)

Each partner organisation must be invited into the Innovation Funding Service by the lead to collaborate on a project. Once partners have accepted the invitation, they will be asked to login or to create an account in the Innovation Funding Service. They are responsible for entering their own project costs and completing their Project Impact questions in the application.

If collaborating, the lead and at least one other organisation must apply for funding when entering their costs into the application.

Non-funded partners

Your project can include partners that do not receive any of this competition’s funding, for example non-UK businesses. Their costs will count towards the total project costs.


Subcontractors are allowed in this competition.

Subcontractors can be from anywhere in the UK and you must select them through your usual procurement process.

You can use subcontractors from overseas but must make the case in your application as to why you could not use suppliers from the UK.

You must provide a detailed rationale, evidence of the potential UK contractors you approached and the reasons why they were unable to work with you. We will not accept a cheaper cost as a sufficient reason to use an overseas subcontractor.

All subcontractor costs must be justified and appropriate to the total project costs.

Number of applications

A business or research and technology organisation (RTO) can only lead on one application but can be included as a collaborator in a further 2 applications.

If an organisation is not leading any application, it can collaborate in any number of applications.

You cannot use a previously submitted application to apply for this competition.


Innovate UK are not funding projects that:

  • cannot sufficiently demonstrate how an innovative technology would be applied to an end-to-end monitoring system and integrated into real-world marine monitoring programmes within the next 5 years
  • have not described the specific improvements sought using the grant funding and the corresponding measurable KPIs
  • are unable to meet the regulatory requirements necessary to operate in the intended environments
  • do not have an appropriate test site prepared

Innovate UK cannot fund projects that are:

  • dependent on export performance, for example giving a subsidy to a baker on the condition that it exports a certain quantity of bread to another country
  • dependent on domestic inputs usage, for example giving a subsidy to a baker on the condition that it uses 50% UK flour in their product

Funding Costs

Up to £750,000 has been allocated to fund the development of innovation projects in this competition. Funding will be in the form of a grant.

If 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 but for the purpose of this project will be undertaking commercial or economic activity.

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 more information on company sizes, please refer to the company accounts guidance.

If you are applying for an award funded under State aid Regulations, the definitions are set out in the European Commission Recommendation of 6 May 2003.

Research participation

The research organisations undertaking non-economic activity as part of the project can share up to 30% of the total eligible project costs. If your consortium contains more than one research organisation undertaking non-economic activity, this maximum is shared between them. Of that 30% you could get funding for your eligible project costs of up to:

  • 80% of full economic costs (FEC) if you are a Je-S registered institution such as an academic
  • 100% of your project costs if you are an RTO, charity, not for profit organisation, public sector organisation or research organisation

Interested in applying for this competition?

Book an appointment to speak to one of our advisors to discuss your eligibility to apply for this Grant Funding opportunity.