Horizontal innovation challenge seeks innovative SMEs

UK SMEs can claim up to £50,000 of R&D support to develop their technologies for new industrial sectors including civil nuclear.

The new Horizontal Innovation programme, led by the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET), is seeking innovative UK small and medium enterprises (SMEs) whose technology can be adapted and commercialised to solve societal and industry challenges in sectors that are new to the company.

Horizontal innovation promotes the transfer of technology from one sector to another. The new programme offers UK SMEs access to advanced technology support to enable their innovation or product to be commercialised and help solve problems in one of seven sector categories: healthcare, agri-tech, energy, food and drink, transport, construction and nuclear.

horizontal innovation

The nuclear challenge covers three broad technology areas:

  • Automation and mechanisation to support in-process inspection and verification, component manipulation and movement, and handling of hazardous waste.
  • Assembly and fabrication, covering modular manufacturing, in-process and through-life monitoring, and tracking and alignment of large assemblies.
  • Digital manufacturing for low-volume production, including enhanced workplace visualisation, digital workflow, and virtual training.

Proposals must be based on the use of wholly or mostly pre-existing technology which has not previously been used in the challenge sector. The winner in each category will be awarded up to £50,000 worth of applied R&D support to help adapt and scale up their innovation for the new application.

The new Horizontal Innovation programme builds on a pilot programme in 2016, when the IET teamed up with the Manufacturing Technology Centre to call for UK SMEs to solve a healthcare challenge. Warwickshire-based 3P innovation was awarded £35,000 to repurpose a simple ketchup and mayonnaise sauce squeezy bottle technology to help address catheter-associated urinary tract infections in UK hospitals.

IET president Jeremy Watson CBE said: “The IET’s Horizontal Innovation Programme offers financial support to SMEs to bring exciting and industry-cutting innovations to market. The UK is internationally renowned for its creativity, research and innovation, but often technologies or processes can get locked into one sector or industry. We want to break down barriers to sharing ideas to enable innovations to be used where they are needed, and not just in the sector in which they are created.

“Our aim is to reward and recognise some of the UK’s most promising small businesses in using horizontal innovation to deliver economic and societal benefits.”

HVM Catapult chief technology officer Sam Turner said: “Taking learning and technology from one sector and adapting it to achieve success in another sector is a core part of what we do. Our work with the construction industry, for example, involves introducing established manufacturing technologies from aerospace and automotive into a construction setting. This is proving to be a speedy, cost-effective and lower-risk way of innovating which has the potential to create real benefit, particularly for small and medium-sized companies.”

To be considered for the programme, SMEs should submit a proposal that demonstrates how their technology solution can be used and commercialised to solve a real-life issue in one of the seven sectors.

Online applications are open until 31 July 2017. For more information and to apply, visit www.theiet.org/horizontal-innovation