Subsea autonomous systems: next generation technologies

Key Features

Individuals can apply to join a 5-day collaborative workshop to develop proposals for autonomous subsea systems that can significantly improve mission duration, sensing and communications.

Programme:     Innovate UK

Award:     Share of up to £6 million

Opens: 14th Jan 2020

Closes: 12th Feb 2020

! This scheme is now closed


The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund’s Robots for a Safer World challenge, through Innovate UK, (as part of UK Research and Innovation), is collaborating with the Ministry of Defence and The Royal Navy, the Oil & Gas Technology Centre, BP, and the Oil & Gas Authority. Together they will invest up to £6 million, from a cross government and industry joint fund, in collaborative business led projects.

In this competition, individuals can apply to take part, on behalf of their organisation, in a 5-day collaborative residential workshop known as the Innovation Lab. It will run from 20 April 2020 to and from 24 April 2020 dates. The attendees will form project teams and work together to develop collaborative proposals for research and innovation projects that deliver concept demonstrators.


The project proposals created during the event and submitted in the project proposal phase competition can be for industrial research or experimental development leading to the development of a concept demonstrator.

Your proposal must focus on solutions that:

  • aim to make autonomous unmanned future systems the standard for offshore subsea operations, including navigating, sensing and communicating processed information
  • operate in an enhanced collaborative inter-platform environment with other manned and autonomous platforms all operating within the water column up to 3,000 metres
  • operate in environments such as off-shore energy, other areas of the blue economy, defence, and ideally in more than one
  • operate safely, efficiently, over long periods of time without human intervention and without maintenance
  • be modular in design with common interfaces and open architectures, and follow all appropriate industrial standards and system engineering principles

Your proposal must also:

  • quantify how the solution can be commercialised
  • include testing and demonstration in realistic scenarios or environments during and upon completion of the project
  • address regulatory or safety issues and constraints, providing a clear indication how these can or will be addressed/demonstrated

Specific Themes

Your project must help develop one or more of the following:

  • Power and communications
  • Sensing, detection, navigation and data processing
  • Deployment and modularity
  • Operations

Further breakdown of these themes can be found here.


To apply to attend the Innovation Lab you must:

  • commit to attending all 5 days on a residential basis at the nominated UK location
  • show you can work collaboratively and have the relevant skills, expertise and experience to represent your organisation
  • be from an organisation that is eligible to submit a project proposal
  • describe the financial and other resources your organisation can commit

If you are successful in your application you will need to sign a confidentiality agreement and return it before attending the Innovation Lab. This is to protect existing intellectual property (IP) and to allow full disclosure of expertise and capabilities at the Innovation Lab.

Your application to attend will be considered by a selection panel, consisting of the Innovation Lab director and independent assessors, one of whom is an organisational psychologist.

The assessment panel will look for evidence that you have:

  • an open, engaging, flexible, imaginative and creative outlook
  • the ability to develop new and highly original innovative ideas
  • the ability to work constructively with people of diverse disciplines
  • the stamina and enthusiasm needed to work with strangers intensively over 5 days away from home

After the Innovation Lab project teams will have 4 weeks to finalise their proposals before submitting them for competitive assessment. Only Innovation Lab participants will be eligible to submit final proposals.

Eligibility criteria for the proposal stage can be found here.

Funding Costs

The funders will pay your residential and subsistence costs to attend the Innovation Lab, excluding alcohol. You must pay your travel costs to and from the Innovation Lab. You can discuss other costs with Innovate UK and these will be considered on a case-by-case basis. You will not be paid for Innovation Lab attendance or proposal development.

Innovate UK have allocated up to £6 million to fund projects developed based on Innovation Lab proposals. It is expected that each project will have total costs between £1.5 million and £3 million.


Innovate UK are not expecting to fund fundamental research projects.

Innovate UK will not fund:

  • projects which do not include a demonstration of the output solution in a representative environment
  • projects that are unwilling to participate in a technology showcase aimed at promoting the commercialisation of the funded solution
  • in-service systems or platforms