About the programme

  • What does the prototyping phase of the programme look like?

    Once applications close, we will review and select the final startups to join the programme. During the prototyping phase participants will be given:

    • £20,000 funding to develop their proof of concept prototype (see funding for how this is paid and how it is to be used)
    • The cohort will also be given access to focused workshops to help develop the concept and understand how to pitch to investors and industry
    • The opportunity to work directly with and receive advice and support from our industrial sponsors and Digital Catapult expertise alongside a support network of industrial and technology experts
    • The prototype phase concludes with the opportunity to participate, pitch and host private demos and meetings with industrial sponsors at the event in June 2021
  • What is Made Smarter?

    Made Smarter is a national movement to drive growth amongst UK makers and advance the UK economy. Backed by world-renowned businesses and the UK Government, it will improve the development and adoption of emerging technologies. Making a real, everyday difference to people from the boardroom to the factory floor.

    Made Smarter was formed following a nationwide review into UK manufacturing that recommended three key changes:

    • More ambitious leadership
    • More innovation in developing new technologies
    • Faster implementation and adoption of those technologies

    We’ll be boosting the digital skills of industry leaders, bringing businesses and research development together to develop new technology, while helping makers embrace new digital tools. In doing so, we’ll inspire the next industrial revolution and make the UK a leader in digital technologies.

  • What is the Made Smarter Technology Accelerator?

    Delivered by Digital Catapult, funded by UKRI through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, as part of the national Made Smarter movement, Made Smarter Technology Accelerator is a national programme, set to fast forward and shape the UK’s technology innovation directly into industry.

    The programme works with both UK manufacturers and the UK’s leading digital technology innovation community, to develop cutting-edge technology solutions to many of the UK’s core manufacturing challenges.

    Made Smarter Technology Accelerator has been designed for industry; it will speed up the opportunities and unlock the known benefits technology adoption has for the UK economy. It is a match-funded programme for medium and large manufacturers who will be part of a select group at the forefront of digital adoption. This group will be helping to define the scope of challenges and be directly involved in the programme, the outputs of which will generate a direct impact to achieving a competitive edge for business.

    Once the challenges are set and partners onboarded, the programme is made real by the UK’s leading technology innovators, providing them with funding and a platform to grow as they develop prototypes that will pivot some of the UK’s most relevant manufacturing challenges.

  • How does the Made Smarter Technology Accelerator sit within the main Made Smarter movement?

    Made Smarter Technology Accelerator is a programme delivered by Digital Catapult, funded by UKRI through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, as part of the national Made Smarter movement.

  • What are the objectives of the Made Smarter Technology Accelerator?

    The programme will drive innovation and recovery in the manufacturing sector across the UK. The Made Smarter Technology Accelerator is a national programme, set to shape the technology innovation and acceleration of advanced digital technologies for the manufacturing sector. Working with both manufacturers and UK early-stage innovative technology companies, the programme aims to pivot and provide solutions to some of the UK’s most relevant manufacturing challenges.

    The programme’s objectives are to aid recovery, improve productivity, increase market capitalisation, export growth and accelerate manufacturing sectors towards industrial net zero.

  • What is the significance of the accelerator programme?

    The Made Smarter Technology Accelerator aims to boost the technology adoption and acceleration of advanced digital technologies for the manufacturing sector across the UK. By doing so, we will create a highly competitive and fertile environment for the manufacturing sector which will then improve productivity, increase market capitalisation, export growth and accelerate sectors towards industrial net-zero.

  • What are the benefits of joining the programme?

    For startups from the digital innovation community the programme will provide you with:

    • Prototype funding – Up to £20,000 to develop a challenge-focused proof of concept prototype and supporting material
    • Peer to peer learning – Part of a cohort of up to 20 teams of talented innovators from across the technology sector
    • Business expertise – Support network of industrial and technology experts to help develop impactful proof of concepts and build new technology prototypes
    • Pitch and industry workshops – Focused workshops to help develop your concept and pitch
    • Mentorship from Industrial Sponsors – The opportunity to work directly with and receive advice and gain support from our industrial sponsors and Digital Catapult expertise
    • Technical monitoring – Engineering expertise to increase confidence in the prototype build with relevance to the manufacturing sector – this monitoring also includes inputs from Digital Catapult technologists
    • Industry prototype presentation event – Opportunity to participate, pitch and host private demos and meetings with industrial sponsors at the event in June 2021
    • Minimum viable product (MVP) funding – The successful cohort members will be eligible for further funding with up to £100,000 to progress the prototype into a minimum viable product
  • What are the programme phases?

    The programme operates in three phases:

    Phase one – partner onboarding and challenge setting
    The first phase seeks our industrial sponsors to join the programme. At this phase we’ll work together with industry to set and define the challenges to be addressed by technological advancements.

    Phase two – innovation community onboarding and prototypes
    From January 2021 we’ll put out an open call to the innovative technology community. Following judging and contracting, up to 20 applicant teams will be selected to each receive up to £20,000 funding and the opportunity and support to develop prototypes that will pivot industry challenges. Successful applicants, from across the technology stack, will work directly with the industrial sponsors and Digital Catapult experts to develop prototypes and leading solutions. During this phase successful applicants will gain access to focused workshops, facilities and mentorship that will complement and aid the funding to develop prototypes for industrial sponsors. We’ll present the final prototypes at the Industry Prototype Presentation, currently scheduled for June 2021.

    Phase three – minimum viable products (MVP) and final showcase
    On successful completion of phase one and the development of prototypes, the programme will select up to four applicant teams for further funding and support to develop their solution into minimum viable products. These solutions will be presented and pitched at the final Showcase, currently scheduled for December 2021.

  • What are the key dates* for the programme?
    • Open call for industry – September 2020 – 31 October 2020
    • Partner contracting and challenge setting – Starting from October to end of December 2020
    • Open call for technology innovators – 04 January 2020 – midnight 07 February 2021
    • Programme start date, prototyping starts – 29 March 2021
    • Industry Prototype Presentation – June 2021
    • Minimum viable product developing – July 2021 – November 2021
    • Final showcase and programme close – December 2021

    *Timelines are approximate and can be subject to change

  • Who is the programme delivered by?

    Made Smarter Technology Accelerator is a programme delivered by Digital Catapult, funded by UKRI through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, as part of the national Made Smarter movement.

  • How will the Made Smarter Technology Accelerator respond to COVID-19 implications?

    The programme was designed before the COVID-19 outbreak and is delivered during the pandemic, which continues to have an impact on the manufacturing sector. The outputs and impact of the programme present an opportunity to boost the UK economy and aid recovery. As we also work to set challenges faced by industry, there is the potential to develop challenges focused specifically on the problems that COVID-19 presents and the opportunities that technology adoption offers. Challenges will be set by Digital Catapult, UKRI and our industrial sponsors and aligned to the five themes.

    Intensifying the market of digital innovators will drive multiple outcomes for the manufacturing sector; to aid the recovery, improved productivity, increased market capitalisation, export growth and accelerating sectors towards industrial net-zero.

    In addition to the challenges the pandemic presents to the wider industry, we will continue to closely monitor the situation and adjust our activities accordingly. For example, a number of our programmes are successfully adapting and being run completely online, including our showcases and events.

    For startups and the innovation community in particular, Digital Catapult is aware of the business impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and knows that early stage immersive startups need our support now more than ever. The Made Smarter Technology Accelerator plans to further help startups in the following ways:

    • Business support – we plan to help startups make the right business decisions and pivot accordingly as they are now faced with complex and difficult realities (for example cash flow, team structure, industry impact) through:
      • Bespoke workshops on pertinent COVID-19 topics such as business strategy, pivoting business models or sectors, remote team management
      • 1-on-1 mentorship with experts from business and industry
      • Leveraging Digital Catapult networks and connecting startups with potential clients and partners
      • Investment support – despite the current investment challenges (for example investment frequency, valuations), in addition to the initial £20,000 programme prototype funding Made Smarter Technology Accelerator will:
        • Continue to educate startups about the investment landscape and pair them with an investor mentor who will support and answer investment-specific queries throughout the programme. Startups will begin to build important investment relationships with VCs and angels that will be beneficial in the next future
        • Inform startups about options on diversifying their funding through alternative financial and investment sources by organising workshops on R&D and loans

Made Smarter Technology Accelerator challenges

Application process

  • What’s the application process and onboarding stages?

    Here’s an outline of the application process and onboarding stages of the programme:

    1. Register your interest – using the form here register your interest, you should receive an email with the full application form and submission process. Please email madesmartertech@digicatapult.org.uk if you do not receive this. 
    2. Application completion – To be considered for the programme you will need to submit the full online application form before the open call closing date 07 February 2021. You can save and return to your form as required
    3. Applications judged and shortlist – Once applications close, completed applications are judged and assessed based on the selection criteria and shortlist selected for review by the Made Smarter Technology Accelerator Steering Group.
    4. Selection and contracting – Once companies have been reviewed and the proposed teams selected by the Made Smarter Technology Accelerator committee, we’ll communicate to successful and unsuccessful companies on the status of their application and complete our contracting with successful startups.
    5. Companies join the cohort – After a careful selection process, we’ll welcome the innovative technology companies to join the programme and announce the leading solutions they’ll be developing for Industry Challenge Owners. Once onboarded cohort companies will receive £20,000 in prototype funding, alongside bespoke mentorship, workshops and introductions to the leading manufacturers and technologists alongside a tailored programme.
  • Can I receive preliminary feedback on my application before completion?

    Unfortunately not, to ensure a fair judging process and due to the number of applications we expect to receive we are not able to work with you or feedback on applications prior to completion. Please refer to our selection criteria to understand what we expect to see from applications.

  • Who can apply?

    The programme seeks applications for technology innovators from the startup and scaleup community who will be interested in developing technology prototypes to some of the UK’s core industrial challenges.

    Designed for startups and scaleups, here are the requirements for applications to the Made Smarter Technology Accelerator:

    • The lead company* has to be registered with Companies House in the UK (or equivalent, for example establishment in the UK and the majority of work must be carried out in the UK. In the case of international co-productions, the work carried out outside the UK must be proportionate to the amount of funding brought in by the international company)
    • The lead company* must have a business bank account
    • The team must have one or more team members with expertise with at least one of the advanced digital technology stack (future networks, artificial intelligence, distributed systems and immersive).
    • Experience within the manufacturing sector is not essential, however knowledge of how to apply this to industry and relevance to the challenge is required.
    • The team must be able to attend all the activities (for example, the workshops, final Showcase for the duration of the programme). Please note dates are subject to change:
      • Workshops and prototyping: March 2021 – June 2021
      • Industry Prototype Presentation event: June 2021
      • Workshops and minimum viable product development (*if successful) July 2021 – November 2021
      • Final Showcase: December 2021
        *Lead company
    • You may enter as a collaborative team, but there must be a lead company that will contract with us and get paid.
    • All other collaborators involved must be named in the application process. It is the responsibility of the lead company to arrange any collaboration agreements or subcontracts as necessary and to comply with the Made Smarter Technology Accelerator terms and conditions.
    • Your collaborators may be with international companies.
    • You can be named as a collaborator on more than one application, but can only be a ‘lead’ company once.
    • We may carry out due diligence on the lead and any collaboration companies so they must be willing to submit documentation upon request (including but not limited to, bank account statements for the business and personal references).


  • How do I apply to join the programme?
    • Complete the short registration of interest form on this website
    • An email will be sent to the address indicated in the short registration of interest form with the link to the full application form
    • To apply to a specific challenge please ensure you tick the appropriate box in the full application form
  • Who will be running the open call?

    The open calls to industry (for onboarding) and the technology innovation community (in response to industry challenges) will be run as part of the programme which is delivered by Digital Catapult, funded by UKRI through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, as part of the national Made Smarter movement. As a result, the open calls will be managed by Digital Catapult as part of the delivery for the programme.

  • What information will the programme ask for in the application form?

    The application form will seek for more details about your:

    • Company information (for example, company name, full name, email address, founder details and category)
    • Progress (for example, stage of company, revenue and customers)
    • Idea (for example, strength, originality, relevance, scalability)
    • Team (for example, team experience and skill set)
    • Challenge application and delivery proposed (for example, relevance, suitability of proposed technical delivery)
    • Equity and legal (for example, investment information, non-compete and de minimus state aid compliance)
    • Ability to commit to attending our workshops and events
  • Who will my application data be shared with?

    The application information will only be used for the purposes of the programme and its evaluation, and will only be retained for the duration of the programme (one year), and for participants on the programme for the evaluation period (maximum five years) and otherwise to comply with legal requirements.

  • What if I am involved in another accelerator programme, or have been involved in a previous Digital Catapult programme?

    Participating or having participated in accelerator or other startup support programmes does not preclude you from taking part in Made Smarter Technology Accelerator, so long as the timings do not cause a conflict of interest and you are eligible to receive the state aid as outlined in the T&Cs. 

    If you have been part of any previous Digital Catapult programme you are welcome to join. For other programmes, your participation will be dependent on the terms of the programme itself and what you have agreed to in the terms and conditions.

  • Do I need to select a challenge on application or is there a generic open call?

    This is a challenge focused programme, all applicants must select one of the challenges to develop prototypes for

  • Do we need to send a business plan?

    At this stage, you just need to complete the online application form without sending us over a business plan. If you are one of the companies/organisations chosen to participate, then you will be expected to prepare your prototype and business plan within the duration of the programme.

  • Can I apply as one company or do applications need to form a consortium/team?

    Applications can be made as one company working on it’s own on the challenge or as a consortium or team of applicants. There is no requirement to apply as a consortium however each idea must be represented by a unique lead applicant. A company can be named as a collaborator on more than one application, but may only be a lead applicant once. If applying for more than one challenge as a lead applicant, if these ideas are successful you will only be able to progress the most relevant idea, this will be decided by the Challenge Owners. 

    A business is welcome to participate in several bids as a consortium or team, as long as they are confident the work could be delivered should they all be successful.

Evaluation Process

  • What will the down-selection process look like and who are the different stakeholders/judges?
    • Based on our other industry programmes of this scale and size we anticipate a high volume of applications.
    • Digital Catapult technology leads and steering team will evaluate all applications and produce an initial list of applications for review by the Steering Group.
    • These applications will then be evaluated by the Made Smarter Technology Accelerator Steering Group.
    • The Made Smarter Technology Accelerator Steering Group will consist of industrial sponsors, UKRI, Made Smarter and Digital Catapult.
    • The judging criteria will be clearly defined and decisions reached through a point based voting system.
    • The top voted applications (up to 20) will be welcomed onto the programme subject to contracting and onboarding process.
  • What is the success criteria for the open call?

    The success criteria used to assess and select the applicants are:

    • Ability to address the brief in response to the open call
    • Demonstrate relevant industry experience – either specific to the industry being addressed or other appropriate industry
    • Experience in appropriate technology area

    See selection criteria for further info

  • How are applications judged?

    The criteria will be presented as statements. Each of the criteria has the same weights. The judges will respond by indicating how strongly they accept these statements.

    • Appropriate team experience – The team is equipped to deliver the proposed prototype and has appropriate technology and business skills and know-how.
    • Strength of the idea – The idea is realistic, well-developed, demonstrates strong vision and application.
      Originality of the idea – The idea is original and new, it pushes boundaries for the manufacturing industry and challenge it is proposed for.
    • Functionality – The idea will be very well represented through the end prototype.
    • Suitability/relevance – The idea described uses suitable advanced digital technologies from our technology areas and promises a good benchmark. The idea is also likely to be suitable for further funding opportunities.
    • Value for money – The idea’s combination of cost, quality and sustainability is well balanced. The scale of the prototype is reasonable with respect to the effort proposed.
    • Feasibility of prototype delivery – The technical delivery of the proposal is clear and achievable in the timeframe and budget. This includes the design and build of the prototype, as well as the specifications for deployment.
    • Potential to answer the set challenge – The proposal shows a good understanding of a clearly identified selected challenge and relevance to the manufacturing sector and the challenge objectives
    • Growth potential – The idea has the potential to succeed beyond the Made Smarter Technology Accelerator programme and receive further funding opportunities and keep on growing as a project.

    The final selection decision will also consider applicants’ projects variety and welcome applicants from underrepresented groups to ensure a well-balanced and differentiated portfolio of projects.

    The decision is taken by Digital catapult and its relevant partners on the information submitted, any additional information gleaned from its due diligence, and their knowledge. This decision is final.

  • What if my application is not successful to join the prototyping teams?

    We expect to receive a high demand for the programme from startups and scaleups, we can only allow up to 20 teams to join the first phase of prototyping. Placement on the programme is based on a clear down selection process and criteria (please see open call section). We unfortunately cannot accept all the great ideas that come through. If you are not successful you will not be able to take part in the programme but may find another Digital Catapult programme, of relevance. Check our website for all our programmes.

  • What if we don’t qualify for the second round of the minimal viable product sprints?

    We’ll select up to three winners from the 20 teams to receive further funding with £100,000 each to produce a minimum viable product. Digital Catapult technologists and our industry partners host workshops to support on pitching, commissioning and specific technical skills.

  • Will I receive feedback if we don’t qualify?

    This depends on the phase of the programme. Unfortunately, if your application is not successful for our prototyping phase, we cannot provide feedback to all our applicants, but we will let you know the outcome either way.

    If you have taken part in the prototyping phase and seek to join the minimum viable product phase then yes. The companies which do not qualify for the final stage of the minimum viable product creation will receive relevant feedback from Digital Catapult on the scoring and technical requirements.

Application – Company requirements

  • Does my organisation need to be a UK registered company to enter?

    Yes, you have to be registered with Companies House. We will consider bidders that hold any legal form of business (e.g. ltd company, sole trader, consortium).

  • Does my organisation need to be UK based or can I collaborate with international contributors?

    Collaborations may include international contributors, but to complete the Programme (i) the team must have an establishment in the UK, and (ii) the majority of work should be carried out in the UK and teams need to be able to commit to attending the workshops and Industry Prototype Presentation event.

  • As a startup or scaleup, do I need to be working in the manufacturing sector already?

    No, we recognise the opportunity for innovative technology companies to advance the UK’s manufacturing sector. You do not have to be working directly in or have clients within the manufacturing space, however your technology and proposed solution must be applicable and of relevance to the challenge and be able to be scaled within the sector. You must identify its benefit for the sector and how this can be scaled accordingly.

  • Are all technology startups or scaleups invited to participate in Made Smarter Technology Accelerator?

    The technology solutions that will be considered for the Made Smarter Technology Accelerator are:

    • Future networks and advanced digital infrastructure (5G and the internet of things including low powered wide area networks, NB-IoT, LIFI etc. and includes sensors, edge devices, wearables etc.)
    • Immersive technologies – Extended reality (virtual, augmented, mixed reality and haptics)
    • Artificial intelligence and machine learning (natural language processing, machine vision, deep learning)
    • Distributed ledger technologies (Blockchain etc.)

    Applicants will need to illustrate technological expertise that can be applied to the industry challenges set in a way that has the potential to pivot these challenges forward. The solutions proposed will need to sit within the above technology categories to be considered. These are the core technology areas at the Digital Catapult work within and have been identified by us as those too offer the most impact and outputs to the manufacturing sector.



  • How is the programme funded?

    The programme is funded in part by the industrial sponsors onboarded and by programme funding.

    The programme is also funded by UKRI through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, as part of the national Made Smarter movement.

  • Is there a fee to be involved for applications from the innovation community?

    No, for our applicant startup and scaleup companies the programme is free to take part. We’ll give successful teams up to £20,000 each for the development of proof of concept and prototypes. A further potential £100,000 of funding is available to a small number of successful applicants.

  • For applicants – how/when will we receive the funding?

    Up to £20,000 worth funding will be allocated to each successful onboarded applicant as follows:

    • 25% paid at the start, as long as applicants provide a business plan including: distribution and exploitation plan, finance and budget plan, timeline, confirmation of final team, technical and creative information, confirmation of match funders and investors, grating terms, contracts or contracting terms.
    • 60% paid after demonstration of work in proof of concept progress displayed during a pre-arranged meeting with UKRI and Digital Catapult. 15% final payment of funding on provision of an updated business plan detailing distribution and exploitation strategies (including the possible business models) and demonstration of the final experience to a public audience.
      For Digital Catapult to grant this funding we must issue and receive back a completed de minimis declaration from each company showing their culmination of de minimis awards over the last 3 fiscal years does not exceed €200,000.
  • What if my resources run over budget?

    The Made Smarter Technology Accelerator funding is up to £20,000 for up to 20 winning applicants who will participate in the creation of the prototypes and £100,000 to the three winners who will proceed to the final stage of the minimum viable product creation. Further expenditure produced by the companies will have to come from their own budget.

  • What role do the Investment Partners play in the programme?

    A select number of investors will be involved in the programme imparting their knowledge and experience at key points in the process. We hold a number of relevant investor days at Digital Catapult and we may invite our lucrative investment community to the programme events and showcase.

  • Will I receive access to a manufacturing site or factory?

    At the moment and due to the COVID-19 pandemic, you are not expected to receive access to any manufacturing site. However, if you are successful on the programme, you will be able to have a conversation with the industry sponsors to determine whether on-site access will be available in regard to health and safety policies.


  • Will there be a standard NDA to cover discussions with the Industry Challenge Owners and what contracts will I need to sign?

    Successful applicants will be issued a contract and terms and conditions for participating in the programme. Due to the sensitive nature of the data and work with Industry Challenge Owners it is likely that an NDA may be required with some of the Industry Challenge Owners around the work directly with them.

  • How do the free licenses work and what is expected here?

    The starting point for a free license is a requirement for the provision of a prototype to demonstrate the solution which can be used by Catapult and the Industrial Challenge Owner to understand and showcase the solution indefinitely.  This is straightforward in many instances e.g. an executable programme that runs on a PC.

    However, if there are good reasons for additional requirements or limitations, then these can be considered on a case by case basis, but given the limited use of the ‘instance’ for demonstration and showcasing purposes, the good reason needs to demonstrate significant cost (or on-going cost that cumulates) to the participant, so it’s reasonable to not include such additional requirement or limitation as part of the initial funding. For example, a cloud hosted solution.

    Further, it would be helpful if participants provided an option for the Industrial Challenge Owner to be able to continue use of the prototype despite the restriction or limitation.  For example, if it was cloud hosted, this could be hosted at cost for the ICO, or migrated to the ICO, thus allowing ICO to continue use without further ongoing cost to the participant.


    • there is an expectation that the prototype can be used for twelve months after the project without additional charges; 
    • any software owned by participant shouldn’t attract additional charges to ICO;
    • costs incurred in work to migrate the prototype would ordinarily be covered by the existing funding; and 
    • any additional payments (e.g. third party cost) would be on a cost basis only, i.e. it is not designed to generate margin for the participant


  • Will Participants own the IP of the solutions?

    The Participants will have full ownership of the IP as the solution providers.

  • Does Made Smarter Technology Accelerator take ownership of intellectual property?

    No, this programme does not seek to own any participants’ IP. We do require a free licence/version to use your prototype/product openly in our centres insofar as practicable (but this will be protected and doesn’t get distributed beyond use in our centres); this is normally seen to be a benefit as it demonstrates your prototype/product and can assist introductions between participants and interested parties.

    You will similarly need to provide a free licence/version for the Industrial Sponsors to be able to use and demonstrate the prototype/MVP, insofar as practicable. You will be expected to agree specific terms with the Industrial Sponsors directly.

  • Will the Made Smarter Technology Accelerator take any equity in the startups?

    No. Made Smarter Technology Accelerator is equity-free and there are no fees associated with participation.

  • As an applicant, what’s the contracting process and terms and conditions to be on the programme?

    A further competition/evaluation will be put in place for all participants to have the opportunity to apply for the MVP funding.

    Participants successful with the MVP application will need to sign up to additional terms to cover the MVP activities.

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