Putting the SBRI into the Sustainable Innovation Fund

Lightbulb in soil and illuminating, with leaves

With the launch of phase two of Sustainable Innovation Fund (SIF) SBRI, I thought I’d provide some insight into SIF and specifically the SBRI side of things…

Avid blog readers may be already aware (having read one of my team members’ previous blogs (Innovate UK)), SIF seeks to stimulate clean growth recovery in light of COVID-19. The fund cuts across all the sectors of the UK economy. It ensures that we encourage and support new, innovative ideas that have a positive impact on climate change and environmental sustainability.

In practical terms, this has meant that through SIF, Innovate UK has funded 1,081 projects, spanning from:

  • artificial intelligence
  • data economy
  • manufacturing
  • materials
  • mobility.

So, what is SBRI?

SBRI refers to the Small Business Research Initiative (GOV.UK), but do not let the word ‘small’ fool you, applications aren’t determined by organisational size.

Unlike grant-funded projects, SBRI is a pre-procurement contract and participants are 100% funded (no match funding required).

The intellectual property for these products and services remains with the applicant and therefore can be commercialised across the UK and internationally.

…and the SIF SBRI programme?

The SIF SBRI programme is the largest funding programme, using this instrument, that Innovate UK has ever run (no pressure there then).

The programme was quickly constructed to begin the journey of ‘Building Back Better’ (GOV.UK) toward a prosperous, resilient and equitable future based on net zero technologies. It supports the direction of the UK research and development roadmap.

We want to improve how we use UK government procurement to support innovation and in turn use innovation to improve public services for example, through programmes such as the SBRI.

SIF SBRI will make £48.6 million available to businesses. The programme is being delivered in two phases.

Phase one

Phase one was a three-month sprint, funded up to £60,000 per project, to establish the feasibility of new ideas.

The phase one competition attracted over 1,000 applications, from which 178 were selected for funding.

165 of these then went on to apply for phase two funding, resulting in 70 interviews over a four-day period, an excellent team effort!

Phase two

SIF SBRI phase two started at the beginning of April 2021.

Of the original 165 that applied 24 cutting-edge projects were selected to receive a share of £38.6 million.

This phase allowed participants to apply for up to £3 million to prototype and test the innovation in a real-world setting working with potential future customers.

As you can imagine, the pace of funding was brisk and certainly a baptism of fire for a new member of staff. But it was an excellent experience. And, without wanting to sound too contrived, I am pleased to have the opportunity to play my part in facilitating the delivery of these wonderfully innovative game changers….

Phase two highlights

Man cycling in London wearing protective helmet and face mask

Credit: JohnnyGreig/GettyImages

MAS Design Products Limited

This Poole-based project aims to establish a disrupt in the folding and electric bike market by introducing innovative manufacturing techniques and value engineering.

It takes their product from a cumbersome, agricultural ‘device’ for enthusiasts into a desirable, ‘must have’, affordable product for everyone.

Personally, I am looking forward to donning my helmet and whizzing around Poole Harbour in the non-too (socially) distant future!


Queen Margaret University Edinburgh are developing an excellent excuse to eat cake guilt-free. A winner.

Freshly baked cakes and cupcakes

Credit: coldsnowstorm/GettyImages

PALM-ALT project aims to provide a game-changing solution to the environmental issues associated with the food industry’s dependency on the over-cultivation of palm.

They intend to use novel combination of sustainable ingredients (linseed processing co-product and beta-glucan), which when processed in specific conditions can mimic palm fat functionality. This allows it to be replaced with healthier rapeseed oil (low in saturated fat and high in polyunsaturated fat), without comprising on taste or appearance. Wonderful news.

The health and environmental benefits are tremendous, as is the promise of samples being sent to the Innovate UK offices! Even better news.

BIOME Technologies PLC

BIOME Technologies PLC from Southampton and their ingenious tree guard to protect saplings.

Pine woodland

Credit: Alex McGregor/GettyImages

This product is completely biodegradable, which will help address the 2,500 tons per annum of persistent microplastics currently littering the environment, which has resulted from using oil-based plastic (polypropylene) products.

The guards will also offer saplings increased protection from wind and pests. This solution cannot come soon enough, given the government’s plan to significantly increase tree planting as part of the UK’s drive to mitigate the effects of climate change…

So, what is next?

In addition to measuring the impact and performance of these projects, the focus will now be on supporting the projects to deliver against their milestones.

This leads up to showcasing the very best projects at the UN Climate Change Conference in November 2021 in Glasgow (government restrictions permitting)!


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Top image:  Credit: jittawit.21/GettyImages

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