Smart Shipping Acceleration Fund

Key Features

UK registered organisations can apply for a share of up to £8 million for innovative smart shipping technologies for maritime decarbonisation. This funding is from the Department for Transport (DfT).

Programme:     Innovate UK

Award:     Share of up to £8 million

Opens: 22nd Apr 2024

Closes: 26th Jun 2024


Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, will work with the Department for Transport (DfT) to invest up to £8 million in innovation projects to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from shipping and ports. These projects will carry out innovative feasibility studies.


The aim of this competition is to fund detailed feasibility studies for innovative technology demonstrations of scalable smart shipping technologies that reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve air quality.

Your project must conduct a technical and economic feasibility study associated with the development and demonstration of on-vessel technologies, infrastructure technologies or both.

You must plan for the real world demonstration or deployment developed in your project to be operational by the end of 2027.

Your project must:

  • underpin a future demonstration by delivering a meaningful technology, route to market, or supply chain innovation
  • achieve market potential through a clear strategy for commercialising the technology and the products, demonstrating the potential for significant value to the UK
  • illustrate emissions reduction by demonstrating a significant potential greenhouse gas reduction or significant air quality improvements
  • bring together a team with the necessary expertise and experience to successfully deliver the project objectives, and include at least one representative end user such as a vessel operator, port or harbour authority

At the end of your project, you must:

  • produce a clear, detailed and costed plan for how your technology will be demonstrated in an operational setting in, or between, ports or on vessels, including your technical approach, objectives and business case
  • quantify the potential reduction of lifecycle emissions and positive economic impacts in the future
  • outline expected commercial applications and exploitation, and potential market segments
  • detail your plan for compliance with regulation and how you will work with relevant regulatory bodies for novel technologies
  • share your findings with the Department for Transport (DfT), Maritime and Coastguard agency (MCA) and Innovate UK
  • produce a clear plan for disseminating the results of your project and knowledge sharing
  • explain your understanding of any barriers to market adoption, including industry and government related barriers
  • detail the barriers to adoption that the future demonstration will overcome and the innovation that will be delivered
  • detail the resources needed to carry out your real world demonstration, including funding requirements, timescales for delivery, planning permissions, implications of current and future regulation, new partners and information for a clear business case

Successful projects must engage with DfT, Innovate UK and any appointed third party contractors related to Smart Shipping Acceleration Fund projects.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) may contact successful projects shortly after winners are notified to discuss the details of your project. Failure to engage with the MCA when requested could result in your project being suspended or funding withdrawn.

Types of vessel

Technologies for all sizes and categories of maritime vessel subject to the Merchant Shipping Act 1995 are in scope. Solutions can be suitable for one target size of vessel or multiple. Pleasure and commercial vessels are in scope.

Where your project intends to utilise a vessel, the vessel is expected to be a United Kingdom Ship, otherwise you must provide justification for use of a non-United Kingdom Ship in your application. United Kingdom Ship is defined in 85(2) of the Merchant Shipping Act 1995.

Types of infrastructure

All ports and harbours are in scope, including infrastructure for freight, passenger, pleasure and commercial vessels. Offshore infrastructure is also in scope, such as wind farms.

Value for the UK

Innovate UK encourage projects from around the UK to support boosting jobs and economic growth, including projects from ports, vessel operators, vessel manufacturers and their supply chain. Innovate UK welcome projects from areas with existing smart shipping expertise.

You must clearly demonstrate how you will anchor Intellectual Property (IP) generated by the project in the UK. You must also show how this IP will be exploited for the benefit of the UK supply chain in the future.

Portfolio approach

Innovate UK want to fund a variety of projects across different technologies, markets, technological maturities, themes and locations. We call this a portfolio approach.

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

Specific Themes

  • vessel optimisation and smart efficiency technologies
  • vessel efficiency focused on data, software or autonomy
  • autonomous vessels including subsystems such as control systems and sensors
  • sensor and robotic systems both within the port environment and on vessel
  • smart maintenance operations technologies
  • port and shipyard operations optimisation and digitisation
  • digital tools such as for smart route planning and emissions monitoring
  • big data and AI, how new business models can create value in the maritime sector and for optimisation and planning of maritime traffic
  • smart shipping safety and skills


Your project must:

  • have total costs between £75,000 and £750,000
  • last up to five months
  • carry out all of its project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK
  • start by 1 November 2024
  • end by 31 March 2025

Projects must always start on the first of the month and this must be stated within your application. Your project start date will be reflected in your grant offer letter if you are successful.

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 or Belarusian entity as lead, partner or subcontractor. This includes any goods or services originating from a Russian or Belarusian source.

If you have not requested approval or your application has not been approved by us, you will be made ineligible. Your application will then not be sent for assessment.

Lead organisation

To lead a project your organisation must:

  • be a UK registered business of any size
  • collaborate with other UK registered organisations

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

Trust ports and Municipal ports will be treated as businesses.

Academic institutions cannot lead or work alone.

Project team

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 (IFS) 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 IFS. They are responsible for entering their own project costs and completing their Project Impact questions in the application.

To be an eligible collaboration, 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 can only lead on one application but can be included as a collaborator in two further applications.

If a business is not leading any application, it can collaborate in any number of applications.

Other organisations can collaborate on any number of applications.

Use of animals in research and innovation

Innovate UK expects and supports the provision and safeguarding of welfare standards for animals used in research and innovation, according to best practice and up to date guidance.

Any projects selected for funding which involve animals will be asked to provide additional information on welfare and ethical considerations, as well as compliance with any relevant legislation as part of the project start-up process. This information will be reviewed before an award is made.

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


Innovate UK are not funding projects that are:

  • not focusing on significant potential greenhouse gas reduction or significant air quality improvements
  • focusing on fuel production
  • focusing only on fossil fuel powertrains of maritime vessels
  • focusing on marine conservation and ecology, such as mapping the sea floor
  • focusing on personal watercraft (PWC)
  • focusing on the creation of open access research facilities in clean maritime or smart shipping
  • focusing on submarines and submersible vessels
  • military applications
  • covered by existing commercial agreements to deliver the proposed solutions
  • a duplicate of existing innovation

Innovate UK cannot fund projects that are:

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

Funding Costs

Up to £8 million has been allocated to fund 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.

The balance between your total project costs and the amount of grant awarded must be funded by the organisation receiving the grant.

For feasibility studies 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

Research participation

The research organisations undertaking non-economic activity as part of the project can share up to 50% 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 50% 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.