Call for Applications: Enabling Technologies and Innovation Competencies Challenge Project

Call for Applications - Key Enabling Technologies & Sensor Technology Applications for SMEs

A call is now open for applications for Enabling Technologies and Innovation Competencies Challenge project part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

This Call consists of two streams:
i.    Generic Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) stream, which offers expertise and support to SMEs in development of new innovative products and services using the following technologies:
•    photonics
•    advanced materials
•    micro and nanoelectronics
•    nanotechnology
•    industrial biotechnology
•    advanced manufacturing technologies
•    digital technologies

ii.    Industrial Application of Sensor Technology stream that is focused on exploring together with small & medium businesses
•    how existing sensor technology can help SMEs to improve existing products, services or processes;
•    application of sensor technology to new areas.

A sensor is a device that detects and measures physical input from its environment and converts it into data that can be interpreted by either a human or a machine. The specific input could be light, heat, motion, moisture, pressure, or any one of a great number of other environmental phenomena. Sensor technology has been widely adopted in the variety of industry sectors and applications.
Sensors are used in everyday objects, such as elevator buttons, fridges, phones, cars, besides innumerable applications of which most people are never aware. In combination with new technologies - artificial intelligence, Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data and other - there are even wider opportunities for sensor application. Aston Institute of Photonic Technologies specialises in photonic sensors, which take advantages of immunity to electromagnetic interference, applicability in flammable and explosive scenarios, high sensitivity and compactness.

Below are a few examples from the vast variety of sensor applications. This is by no means a comprehensive list.
•    Food/Drink Manufacturing: Raman and mid-IR spectroscopy is used for detection and analysis of organic and inorganic materials and substances
•    Telecoms: fiber optic sensors improve performance and lower costs of satellite monitoring for control and housekeeping.
•    Life Science: diode sensors allow non-invasive examination, diagnostics and treatment.
•    Manufacturing: optical sensors enable the industry to monitor manufacturing processes on line in real time at a very fast rate.
•    Construction and Transportation : LIDARs (stands for "light detection and ranging") build a 3D picture of and object and the surrounding space. They are extensively used in cartography and other various mapping tasks for automotive, maritime, and airspace navigation.

This project is designed to stimulate innovation in small/medium businesses and help businesses grow. ETICC project offers to small & medium businesses:
1.    support and knowledge of KETs and sensor technology from a team of academics from Aston University;
2.    use of university facilities - laboratories and equipment

Support is available to:
•    Existing Small to Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) located in or moving into the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership area interested in application of laser technology, with the particular focus on (but not limited to) the following sectors: life sciences, digital and creative, low carbon and advanced manufacturing.
•    Existing Small to Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) located in or moving into the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership areas interested in application of laser technology, with the particular focus on (but not limited to) the following sectors: transport technologies (including aerospace and automotive), building technologies/construction, advanced manufacturing /advanced engineering, environmental technologies, and business services.
•    Small number of companies from outside the above regions might be accepted onto the programme, if spaces in this call are not taken up by the companies located in GBS and Black Country LEPs .

Application Deadline:
This call opens on 26 February 2021 and closes on 31 July 2021. Project applications are reviewed on a rolling basis.

Support available:
The project is looking to select 26 companies from the applicants with the technology innovation projects most suitable to be assisted by this project. Companies are offered a minimum of 12 hours of free-of-charge support through one-on-one consultancy with academics from Aston Institute of Photonic Technologies and Aston Institute of Materials Research. This may also include use of relevant laboratories and equipment. Support is available before the end of July 2021

Application procedure:
Applications have to include a filled-in application form, an SME declaration, a State Aid declaration and a description of the problem or technology the company is working on.

Evaluation criteria
Project proposals will be evaluated based on the following criteria:
•    What are the commercial benefits of the challenge: i.e. what is the likelihood that a good outcome will result in improved processes, improved turnover and gross value added for the company? It is for the company-applicant to make this argument.
•    Novelty of the idea: is this a challenge that is novel and has not already been resolved elsewhere?
Innovative ideas will be prioritised
•    Practicality of delivering a solution within the timescale of the project: solution can be developed within few months and will be completed before the project practical completion date of 31 July 2021
•    Is Enabling Technology & Innovation Competencies Challenge project is an appropriate vehicle, or should the company be referred to one of other ESIF funded projects or activities available in the region.

Activities eligible for funding:
•    Development of new technology for SMEs to improve existing products
•    Development of new technology for SMEs leading to new products
•    Development of a prototype device, system, elements at the SME request
•    Development of the prototype product
•    Assistance with preparation of joint projects for SME’s R&D funding

Activities ineligible for funding:
•    Development of technology that would require year(s) of R&D work
•    Development of new devices, systems and elements that would require year(s) of R&D work
•    Development of new products that would require year(s) of R&D work
•    Development of new technology that would beyond the scope of enabling competences and technologies offered by the project

ETICC Project
Enabling Technologies and Innovation Competencies Challenge project, part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) is aiming to support small and medium businesses using Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) for development of new, innovative products and services.

To receive further information about Enabling Technologies and Innovation Competencies Challenge Project and to apply for the project please send a brief description of idea/technology you are working on, along with your contact details, to eticc@aston.ac.uk and the project team will get back to you.

More information about Enabling Technologies and Innovation Competencies Challenge Project can be found on the project website www.enablingtechnologies.uk