Call for Applications: Enabling Technologies and Innovation Competencies Challenge Project

Application of Key Enabling Technologies to support innovation in small/medium businesses during post-COVID19 recovery

“Leaning into innovation will be your most valuable asset,as you fight for new markets, ways of working and visions in a changed world.”

-David Rogerson, Foolproof Ltd


A call is now open for applications for Enabling Technologies and Innovation Competencies Challenge project, part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The project is designed to stimulate innovation in small/medium businesses and to help businesses grow and develop new innovative products and services through application of Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) that include:

  •  photonics
  •  advanced materials
  •  micro and nanoelectronics
  •  nanotechnology
  • industrial biotechnology
  • advanced manufacturing technologies
  • digital technologies

Current call has a wide scope and aims to support innovation in SMEs affected by COVID19 thus stimulating and supporting their recovery, competitiveness and growth.

Support available:

The project is looking to select at least 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. Support may also include use of relevant university facilities – laboratories and equipment (within limitations imposed by Aston University due to COVID19). The programme is available to existing small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) located in or moving to the Greater Birmingham & Solihull or Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership areas, and interested in development or/and application of key enabling technologies in the following sectors: life sciences, digital and creative, low carbon, advanced manufacturing /advanced engineering, transport technologies (including aerospace and automotive), building technologies/construction, environmental technologies, and business services.

Application Deadline:

This call opens on 7 July 2020 and closes on 12 January 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:

  •  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 competencies and technologies offered by the project

A few examples of projects and companies supported:

  • development of a prototype device for a manufacturer of pest traps
  • review of available sustainable materials for a turbine manufacturer
  • development of a new device prototype for hospital environment
  • development of a new digital product specification for business service sector
  • review of a 5G technology application for a business service sector company
  • application of machine learning in a web platform for a digital business
  • prototype device testing for leisure equipment manufacturer
  • proof-of-concept development for a jewellery equipment manufacturer

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

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