SBRI: Sort and segregate nuclear waste – Phase 1

Key Features

Organisations can apply for a share of £3.9 million, including VAT, to develop an autonomous, integrated toolkit to sort and segregate nuclear waste.

Programme:     Innovate UK

Award:     Share of up to £3.9 million

Opens: 17th Aug 2020

Closes: 11th Nov 2020

! This scheme is now closed


The aim of the competition is to develop an autonomous and integrated toolkit to sort and segregate radioactive waste generated by nuclear decommissioning activities. This will reduce the level of waste requiring disposal, increase productivity, reduce costs, and improve safety.

This is phase 1 of a 2-phase competition. A decision to proceed with phase 2 will depend on the outcomes from phase 1 and the assessment of a separate application into a subsequent phase 2 competition.


Your project must:

  • reduce waste by prioritising its recycling over its disposal
  • reduce the number of waste sorting and segregation processes carried out by humans
  • increase the productivity of the processes
  • be scalable and transferable

This competition will fund innovative projects that combine existing technologies into a single integrated system.

Your application must address all the following:

  • detect the type and intensity of the radioactivity present using existing technology or off-the-shelf equipment
  • determine the composition, size, shape, and surface area of the material
  • sort and segregate the waste by radioactive classification and material type
  • remotely move the waste from a specific area, process it and then pack it into the appropriate container (for example, skips, drums, boxes or bags) ensuring the space used is optimised
  • collect and analyse data and images, and retain accurate records

More information on the specification, background of the challenge, and examples of tasks and end-user working environments are in the NDA sort and segregate waste specification document

This competition is keen to encourage technology transfer from other industrial sectors that carry out multiple complex automated tasks, rapidly and safely. This might include, for example, food processing, logistics, waste management, high value manufacturing or medical.

Solutions might include the integration of a range of existing technologies such as, but not limited to:

  • artificial intelligence and virtual reality
  • advanced software
  • route planning and tracking
  • sensors and detectors
  • image recognition
  • materials characterisation
  • robotics, control, and automation

It is expected that the system you develop to be able to identify and segregate a wide range of different types of waste, including but not limited to:

  • steel offcuts (stainless, mild, galvanised, painted, pipework and solid pieces)
  • aluminium
  • rubble
  • graphite
  • soil
  • plastic hoses
  • asbestos
  • man-made mineral fibres
  • rubber (for example: wellington boots or tyres)
  • plastics (for example: bottles or gloves)
  • aerosols
  • batteries
  • cables

In phase 1 you must produce a technical feasibility study. This should include a technical specification, detailed methodology and plan for a technical solution to be demonstrated in phase 2.


To lead a project, you can:

  • be an organisation of any size
  • work alone or with others as subcontractors

Contracts will be awarded to a single legal entity only.

Due to the wide range of technologies required to provide a solution to this challenge, you are allowed to work with others as subcontractors where their special expertise is needed.

Funding Costs

A total of up to £600,000, including VAT, is allocated to phase 1.

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

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

To simplify payment processing and make it easier for your project to adapt around the current constraints of COVID 19, in phase 1 we will make 2 payments against milestones.

The first payment of 25% of the funding awarded will be dependent on the successful completion of the project kick off meeting and approval of the project plan.

The remaining 75% second payment will be awarded after the submission of the project end-of-phase report, which is your technical feasibility study.

Phase 1: research and development contracts, feasibility study (this competition)

Up to £600,000, including VAT, is available for phase 1 and it is anticipated that the feasibility study R&D contracts will be up to £60,000, including VAT. This is for each project for up to 3 months. This competition expects to fund up to 10 projects. At the conclusion of phase 1 you will produce a technical feasibility study.

Phase 2: research and development contracts, prototype development and testing

Only successful applicants from phase 1 will be able to apply to take part in phase 2. Your end-of-phase 1 report (technical feasibility study) will form part of your application into phase 2.

The second phase will involve up to 4 R&D contracts. Up to £900,000, including VAT, will be allocated for each contract for up to 15 months, in order to develop and demonstrate a full scale prototype in a non-radioactive environment.


This competition will not fund projects that cover:

  • development of new robots
  • development of new radiation sensors
  • additional size reduction or cutting of items
  • development of new technologies where solutions already exist and can be used
  • projects that do not fully meet the scope of the competition
  • projects that cannot complete a full-scale demonstration in a non-radioactive environment in phase 2 by January 2023