Circular economy for SMEs – innovating with the NICER programme

Circular economy for SMEs – innovating with the NICER programme
Founders: -
Funding type: Grant
Total fund: Up to £1 million
Award: £50,000 and £100,000
Publication date: 11 October 2021
Period: Monday 11 October 2021 - 8 December 2021 11:00am

UK registered businesses can apply for a share of up to £1 million to research, test and develop step-change circular economy approaches.



  • Competition opens: Monday 11 October 2021

  • Competition closes: Wednesday 8 December 2021 11:00am 


Your project’s total eligible costs must be between £50,000 and £100,000.


Your project must:



  • have total eligible costs between £50,000 and £100,000

  • start no earlier than 1 April 2022

  • end by 31 March 2023

  • last between 9 and 12 months

  • carry out all of its project work in the UK

  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK


To lead a project or work alone your organisation must be a UK registered micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME) business. 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 accepted, partners will be asked to login or to create an account and enter their own project costs into the Innovation Funding Service.


If part of a collaboration the lead and at least one other organisation must claim funding by entering their costs during the application.


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 eligible project costs.


Not award you funding if you have:



For feasibility studies and 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 experimental development projects which are nearer to market, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:



  • up to 45% if you are a micro or small organisation

  • up to 35% if you are a medium-sized organisation

  • up to 25% if you are a large organisation


Your application must be for a specific, strategic innovation project that tackles one or more challenges faced by the business partner.


It can be any kind of project, it must show:



  • how it helps the business with a real need

  • how it fits the strategic aims of the business partner

  • there is a genuine market opportunity and route to market

  • how the knowledge gained will be embedded within the business partner

  • what makes this approach innovative


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 eligible project costs if you are an RTO, charity, non-profit organisation, public sector organisation or research organisation


The broad spectrum of circular economy approaches will be in scope, for example:



  • repair

  • reuse

  • remanufacture

  • recycle

  • regeneration


Projects are particularly encouraged that focus on retaining the maximum amount of value in a product or system.


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



  • piloting the introduction of a circular economy business model

  • development or improvement of products and processes to enable remanufacturing, repair and retention of value

  • increasing understanding and exploitation of material flow data in a defined place (for example; city, Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP), cluster, region)

  • scaling-up of credible circular economy feasibility studies

  • evaluating whether proposed circular economy approaches are more sustainable when considering broader life cycle thinking


Other focus areas that clearly address the challenges of transitioning to a circular economy are welcomed.


Your project must align with at least one of the resource flows covered by the Interdisciplinary Circular Economy Centres:



Not funding 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


Not award you funding if you have:



  • failed to exploit a previously funded project

  • failed to comply with grant terms and conditions

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