SBRI: Future Telecommunications Challenge

Key Features

Organisations can apply for a share of £28 million, inclusive of VAT in this SBRI competition for the development and commercialisation of cutting-edge telecommunications technological solutions with a foundational role in communication networks.

Programme:     Innovate UK

Award:     Share of up to £28 million

Opens: 6th Oct 2023

Closes: 23rd Nov 2023

! This scheme is now closed


This is a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition funded by the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) and Innovate UK.

The need to grow UK-based ecosystems and commercial offering for Future Telecommunications (including 6G) has been identified as a critical technology area in the recent science and technology framework.


The competition aims to drive advancements in telecommunication technologies that can be integrated into functional prototypes and comprehensive system solutions.

Your proposal must demonstrate the development of innovative telecommunication technologies, fostering collaboration and innovation within the industry.

You must focus on close to market solutions, prioritising:

  • performance
  • coverage
  • security
  • resilience
  • spectrum efficiency
  • cost-effective deployment
  • energy efficiency

You must show how your solutions will:

  • drive advancements in telecommunication technologies
  • lay the groundwork for the networks of the future
  • generate protectable UK based intellectual property

You must demonstrate how your advancements in telecommunication technologies can be integrated into functional prototypes and comprehensive system solutions. This includes, enabling the evaluation of technological maturity for potential users, integrators, standards makers and regulators.

Openness is a key aspect of this competition, promoting the use of open standards to enhance interoperability and flexibility within telecommunication networks. Where relevant you must demonstrate how your solutions align with emerging telecoms standards.

You must demonstrate a credible and practical route to market, so your application must show how you will engage with potential end users and include a plan to commercialise your results.

Our goal for projects, is that through development and commercialisation of cutting-edge novel solutions, along with collaboration and innovation, the UK will:

  • benefit as an early adopter of next generation networks
  • strengthen UK capability
  • boost the UK’s share of the global telecoms sector

Specific Themes

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

Network of Networks

Solutions for this challenge can include virtualised and software-based solutions:

  • with innovation and technological advancements in networking, developing a system that integrates terrestrial and non-terrestrial networks.
  • enabling the delivery of high-speed connectivity to hard-to-reach areas, including densely populated urban areas, remote rural regions and maritime zones
  • leveraging a combination of network segments, including some combination of segments such as terrestrial and non-terrestrial, indoor and outdoor, Wi-Fi and cellular, or public and private
  • addressing the connectivity gaps and provide reliable, high-data-speed network access to underserved areas
  • delivering additional resilience and service consistency to already-served areas

Advanced Optical Networks

Solutions for this challenge must drive innovation and technological advancements in the field of optical networking. They must focus on achieving step-changes in data rates, latency, and energy efficiency in both local and long-haul networks.

To support the demand for faster and more reliable communication networks, project outcomes must push the boundaries of optical networking technologies, including beyond fibre, for future generations of networks.

Next Generation Wireless

Solutions for this challenge must drive innovation and technological advancements in wireless communications, especially transformational access techniques. These include technologies such as:

  • sub-terahertz
  • wireless optical
  • massive Multiple Input Multiple Output (MIMO)
  • optical and sensing domains

This can include virtualised and software-based solutions.

Next generation wireless solutions will enable new applications in areas such as agriculture, manufacturing, logistics, crisis management. Application software and platform innovators must demonstrate the standardisation and benchmarking of the applications for the target industry as well as the market potentials to apply to other industries.

Prototype development and evaluation

This can include prototyping, demonstrating, piloting, testing and validation of new or improved products, processes or services in environments representative of real-life operating conditions. The primary objective is to make further technical improvements on products, processes or services that are not substantially set.


Projects must:

  • start by 1 March 2024
  • end by 31 March 2025
  • have a duration of between 6 to 13 months


To lead a project, you can:

  • be an organisation of any size
  • work alone or with others from business, research organisations, research and technology organisations or the third sector as subcontractors

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

You are responsible for entering your project costs and completing your Project impact questions in the application.

Contracts will be awarded to a single legal entity only. However, if you can justify subcontracting components of the work, you can engage specialists or advisers. The project and delivery against the project milestones will still be the responsibility of the main contractor.

All research, development and testing must take place within the UK.


We will not fund projects that:

  • are not original or in scope
  • duplicates someone else’s work
  • do not demonstrate significant support and engagement from potential future customers, setting out a clear route to market, throughout the project
  • do not address how any potentially negative outcomes (such as on the environment or society) would be managed
  • do not evidence the potential for their proposed innovation to generate positive economic or societal impact
  • would directly duplicate other UK government or EU funded initiatives you have already been funded to deliver
  • are covered by existing commercial agreements to deliver the proposed solutions

Funding Costs

A total of up to £28 million, inclusive of VAT, is allocated to this competition.

This competition involves up to 20 contracts being awarded to organisations. Up to £7 million inclusive of VAT will be allocated for each contract.

The total funding available for the competition can change. The funders have the right to:

  • adjust the provisional funding allocations
  • apply a ‘portfolio’ approach

The contract is completed at the completion of all milestones set out in the project plan, and the successful organisation is expected to pursue commercialisation of their solution.

Value Added Tax (VAT)

You must select whether you are VAT registered before entering your project costs.

VAT is the responsibility of the invoicing business. We will not provide any further advice and suggest you seek independent advice from HMRC.

VAT registered

If you select you are VAT registered, you must enter your project costs exclusive of VAT. As part of the application process VAT will be automatically calculated and added to your project cost total. Your total project costs inclusive of VAT must not exceed £7 million.

Not VAT registered

If you select you are not VAT registered, you must enter your project costs exclusive of VAT and no VAT will be added. You will not be able to increase total project costs to cover VAT later should you become VAT registered. Your total project costs must not exceed £7 million.

Research and development (R&D)

Your application must have at least 50% of the contract value attributed directly and exclusively to R&D services, including solution exploration and design. R&D can also include prototyping and field-testing the product or service. This lets you incorporate the results of your exploration and design and demonstrate that you can produce in quantity to acceptable quality standards. R&D activity for completion of the project should take place in the UK where reasonably possible.

R&D does not include:

  • commercial development activities such as quantity production
  • supply to establish commercial viability or to recover R&D costs
  • integration, customisation or incremental adaptations and improvements to existing products or processes

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.