About the programme

  • Is the Made Smarter Innovation Sustainability Accelerator in-person or remote?

    Most of the programme will be delivered remotely via online calls and sessions. We expect to organise a small number of in-person events at Digital Catapult’s London office over the programme period, including a programme kick off and final showcase event. Attendance at the Industry Challenge Owner site will be required when and as needed on the programme. Digital Catapult will provide as much notice as possible. 

  • Do I have to attend all the activities?

    In general, attending all activities on the Made Smarter Innovation Sustainability Accelerator can be beneficial as it provides you with the opportunity to learn from experienced experts, connect with other entrepreneurs, and develop your business skills. However, we understand that priorities can shift, and therefore participants must attend a minimum of 85% of all program activities between June 2024 – February 2025.

  • What are the key dates of the programme?
    • Open call – Applications Open – Wednesday 21 February 2024
    • Open call – Application Deadline – Monday 1 April 2024, 23:59
    • Interviews Day (30 mins) – between Monday 22 April until Friday 26 April 2024

    BAE Systems Interview Day – Tuesday  23rd April 

    HS2 Interview Day – Wednesday, 24th April 

    Creagh Concrete Interview Days – Thursday, 25th and Friday, 26th April

    The judging panel will conduct interviews with all shortlisted applicants. The judging criteria will be clearly defined and decisions reached through a point based voting system.

    The top voted 8 applications will be welcomed onto the programme subject to contracting and onboarding process.

    • Intended notification of all Applicants – 3rd May 2024
    • Contracting – May 2024
    • Intended public announcement of successful Participants – June 2024
    • Programme start date – Kick off event –  Wednesday, 19th June 2024
    • Programme Alignment Workshop – week commencing 24th June 2024
    • Midpoint Development Review Presentation –  the week commencing 14th October 2024
    • Final Showcase and programme close –  February 2025

    Note: Dates and activities can be subject to change. Digital Catapult will endeavour to provide as much notice as possible to applicants/participants should any changes arise.

  • What are the programme phases?

    The Made Smarter Innovation Sustainability Accelerator sits at the heart of the Made Smarter Innovation mission, funded by Innovate UK and UKRI. The Sustainability Accelerator will enable UK manufacturers to address current industrial challenges that deliver resource and energy efficiency (REEE).

    Made Smarter Innovation Sustainability Accelerator is a 9-month programme with two phase selection and support, and a midpoint development review to down-select the companies for phase 2 of the programme.

    Phase one – innovation community onboarding and prototype development
    From February 2024 we’ll put out an open call to the innovative technology community. Following judging and contracting, 8 applicant teams will be selected to each receive £75,000 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 their leading solutions from June to October 2024.

    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 Midpoint Development Review, currently scheduled for the week commencing the 14th October 2024.

    Phase two – further prototype development within a pilot environment and final showcase
    On successful completion of phase one and the development of prototypes, the programme will select up to 4 applicant teams for further funding of £100,000 and support to further develop their solution within a pilot environment. These solutions will be presented and pitched at the final Showcase, currently scheduled for the 19th February 2025.

  • What are the benefits of joining the Made Smarter Innovation Sustainability Accelerator?

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

    Phase 1: Prototype Development  (June – October ‘24)

    • Grant funding: Selected startups will be provided with funding of £75,000 to develop challenge-focussed solutions.
    • Business expertise: Bi-weekly meetings with the Digital Catapult team of experts and industry challenge owners to assess, iterate and accelerate your technology solutions for increasing resource efficiency and energy efficiency (REEE).
    • Group learning: Group sessions with the other companies on the Programme, sharing learnings and insights gained from the Programme as well as previous expertise.
    • Sustainability Masterclass: A focused session to help you develop and build technology solutions for sustainability-focussed manufacturers.
    • Technical monitoring: Engineering and product management expertise to increase confidence in the product development and push the boundaries of the technology – this monitoring also includes inputs from Digital Catapult technologists and product.
    • Access to facilities: For the duration of the programme, the cohort may be able to make use of Digital Catapult Lab London (Immersive Lab, Future Network Lab), as well as site visits to industry challenge owner’s premises.
    • Midpoint Development Review Opportunity to demonstrate product development progress and share lessons learned at the Midpoint Development Review online event in the week commencing 14th October 2024.

    Phase 2: Further Prototype development within pilot environment (October ‘24 – February ‘25)

    • Grant funding: Selected startups will be provided with further funding of £100,000 to develop challenge-focused solutions.
      • Business expertise: Cohort support for assessing the value and potential impact of the proposed solutions and identifying paths for further development and commercialisation.  
      • Peer to Peer learning (as above)
    • Technical monitoring (as above)
    • Access to facilities and site visits to Industry Challenge Owner’s premises (as above)
    • Investment-readiness support : Access to Digital Catapult’s investment team to help companies improve their investment readiness, understand what investors are looking for and answer specific business challenges, preparing them to start their fundraising process. 
    • Pitch training: One-to-one pitching sessions with a coach to support each company to practise and build the narrative and script for the Final Showcase event.
    • Final showcase event during which Participants will present to an invited audience of ICOs, investors, partners and industry stakeholders on the 19th of February 2025

    Upon successful completion of the Accelerator Programme, the opportunity to join the Digital Catapult Alumni Network, which keeps companies informed of opportunities and relevant updates from the Digital Catapult, and which provides additional opportunities to engage with Digital Catapult and other Alumni.

  • What is the Made Smarter Innovation Sustainability Accelerator?

    Made Smarter Innovation Sustainability Accelerator is a national programme designed for the UK manufacturing industry. 

    It provides UK manufacturers the opportunity to fast forward their adoption of digital solutions that deliver resource efficiency and energy efficiency (REEE). 

    The programme is aimed at supporting the manufacturing sector’s transition to net zero emissions in alignment with the UK Government’s environmental goals. The manufacturing sector contributes over 11% to UK Gross value added (GVA) and 12% of UK greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Policy makers set out a target reduction of CO2 emissions by 4.5% (Made Smarter, 2017) and a legally binding target of 68% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030 (Net Zero Strategy). 

    To overcome the difficulties associated with sustainability in manufacturing, three industry partners will work with Digital Catapult to scope and define 1-2 real-world sustainability challenges each. Eight startups will join the programme to design a proof of concept of their solutions in phase 1, while in phase 2 they will be expected to further develop their solutions within a pilot environment, addressing these challenges and utilising AI and other digital technologies.

    As part of the national Made Smarter movement, we’ll work with both leading UK manufacturers and industrial companies along with the UK’s pioneering digital technology innovation community to develop cutting-edge technology solutions to many of the UK’s core manufacturing challenges.

    About Made Smarter

    The Made Smarter Innovation Sustainability Accelerator sits at the heart of the Made Smarter Innovation mission, funded by Innovate UK and UKRI. The Sustainability Accelerator will enable UK manufacturers to address current industrial challenges that deliver resource and energy efficiency (REEE).

Made Smarter Innovation Sustainability Accelerator Challenges

Application process

  • 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 technology adoption support programmes does not exclude you from taking part in Made Smarter Innovation Sustainability Accelerator, as 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.

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

    Applicants can be made as one company working on its 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.

  • Do I need to send a business plan?

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

  • Who is application data 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 (two years), and for participants on the programme for the evaluation period (maximum five years) and otherwise to comply with legal requirements.

    Please see the Programme Competition Terms for more details.

  • I need help using Skipso, what should I do?

    If you’re having any problems with Skipso and require help, please contact the team on: madesmartersustainability@digicatapult.org.uk

    There are also self-service help files available direct from Skipso here.

  • Can I save my application and come back to it later?

    Yes, the form we use for the full application process can be modified and saved at any time before the final submission date. Please ensure you do not leave the page idle for long periods (without saving), as this may cause the page to timeout. After full submission and completion forms cannot be altered or edited.

  • Can I apply for more than one challenge or more than one idea?

    The simple answer is yes, you can. However, you can only be a lead company on one challenge, this means if successful only one idea will progress to prototyping phase and funding – this will be based on the idea that has the potential to best meet the challenge requirements.

  • How do I apply to join the programme?
    • You can start your application by clicking on the Apply button here.
    • Please ensure you select the appropriate application form for this programme.
    • To apply to a specific challenge please ensure you tick the appropriate box in the full application form.
  • What information is asked for in the application form?

    The application form will seek more details about your:

    • Company information 
    • Challenge & Solution 
    • Team Experience 
    • Technical Feasibility
    • Growth Potential
    • Equity and legal (for example, investment information, non-compete and in-kind support/ state assistance compliance)
    • Ability to commit to attending our workshops and events
  • What level of technical maturity are we looking for?

    We are looking for innovators from any sector with bold ideas that can provide sustainable solutions to the biggest challenges faced by the Industry Challenge Owners. 

    To help you understand if your initiative fits into what we’re looking for, we specifically would like to welcome entries at level 4- 5 on the Technology Readiness Level (TRL 4-5)

    A key objective of the Made Smarter Innovation Sustainability Accelerator is to support innovators to progress through this TRL framework, as well as prepare the Programme Cohort to further scale their solutions beyond the Challenge, for example by providing a pathway to working directly with Industry Challenge Owners or getting investment ready after the programme.   

  • Who can apply?

    The programme seeks applications from technology innovators from the UK ecosystem who will be interested in developing technology solutions to some of the UK’s core industrial challenges. Designed for startups and scaleups, here are the requirements for applications to the Made Smarter Innovation Sustainability Accelerator:

    • The lead company* must 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 UK 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 and advanced digital infrastructure (5G and the internet of things including; low powered wide area networks, NB-IoT, LIFI etc. including sensors, edge devices, wearables etc.)
      • Immersive technologies (Extended reality – virtual, augmented, mixed reality and haptics)
      • Artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI & ML)
      • Distributed ledger technologies (blockchain)
      • Quantum technologies
    • 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 key dates (for example, Kick-off event, the workshops, Midpoint Development Review and Final Showcase for the duration of the programme). Please note dates are subject to change:
    • Programme Kick-off event (in-person): 19 June 2024
    • Prototype development and workshops: June 2024 – February 2025
    • Midpoint Development Review (online event): w/c 14 October 2024
    • Final Showcase event (in-person):  February 2025

    Note: 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 Innovation Sustainability 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).
  • What is the application process and onboarding process?

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

    • Application completion – To be considered for the programme you will need to submit the full online application form before the open call closing 01/04/2024 at 23:59. You can save and return to your form as required. Once an application has been submitted, the applicant will not be able to make any changes to their application. Applicants must ensure all questions are answered otherwise their application may be rejected. 

    Should you require any assistance with the application you can reach out to the team at madesmartersustainability@digicatapult.org.uk to explore the suitability of your idea for the challenges.

    • 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 Innovation Sustainability Accelerator judging panel of Digital Catapult experts and Industry Challenge Owners. 

    Judges will conduct interviews with all shortlisted applicants between Monday 22 April until Friday 26 April 2024 and last 30 minutes. The eight highest ranked Applicants will be accepted onto the Programme.

    • Selection and contracting – Once companies have been reviewed and the proposed teams selected by the Made Smarter Innovation Sustainability Accelerator judging panel, we’ll communicate to successful and unsuccessful companies on the status of their application and complete our contracting with successful startups. Successful applicants will then be notified and provided with a standard Programme Agreement for review. These contracts are standard and not negotiable. We do try and ensure these contracts are fair and reasonable. Invitation to a programme kick-off will then follow provisionally on the completion of this agreement.
    • 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 £75,000 prototype development funding, allocated into 3 payments, alongside bespoke mentorship, workshops and introductions to the leading manufacturers and technologists alongside a tailored programme.


  • Will I receive feedback if unsuccessful?

    Unfortunately, if your application is not successful for the programme, 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 interview phase but your application is unsuccessful then yes. The companies which do not qualify for the prototype development but went through the interview selection process will receive relevant feedback from Digital Catapult on the scoring and technical requirements.

  • Can I receive preliminary feedback on my application before submission?

    Unfortunately not, to ensure a fair judging process and due to the high volume 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.

  • What is the selection process?

    Below is the selection process for the programme:

    Applications judged and long listed
    Once applications close, completed applications are assessed by a panel of judges from the Digital Catapult experts, based on the selection criteria. At this stage applications will be selected for the longlist.

    An internal review will take place with the judging panel to select a shortlist from the longlisted applications. Digital Catapult and industry partners will rank applications in order of score, and the 4 highest scoring for each challenge will progress to the final selection stage, to enable a varied selection of companies for each Industry Challenge Owner. 

    Interview day and final selection
    The shortlisted teams will be invited to an interview with Digital Catapult and Industry Challenge Owners. This interview stage is intended to provide an opportunity for shortlisted  companies  to present their idea and answer any questions the judges may have. The panel will then deliberate and select the final cohort of eight companies (i.e. 2 for each challenge) to join the programme.

  • What are the selection criteria used for applications?

    Challenge & Solution [25%]

    The applicant should demonstrate that their company is addressing a clear problem, as well as applying advanced technologies to tackle the challenges in the selected focus areas. The idea demonstrates the potential to increase resource efficiency and energy efficiency (REEE) for the Industry Challenge Owner.

    Team Experience (25%)

    The team demonstrates they are equipped with the appropriate technology and business skills, and have a good track record to develop and deliver the proposed solution within the timeframe of the programme. 

    Technical Feasibility (25%)

    The proposed idea is at the TRL4-5 level, with potential for progression to TRL6-7 at the end of phase 2 of the programme. The technical delivery of the proposal is feasible within the timeframe and budget, whilst providing clear added value to the ICO. 

    Growth Potential (25%)

    The idea demonstrates some scalability and has the potential to succeed beyond the programme in its full range of capabilities at a growing scale. The idea is likely to be suitable for further funding stages of development and funding opportunities. 


    The scoring criteria will be assessed based on the statements above.
    Each criterion will be scored on a range from 0 to 5 .
    0 being “Unacceptable” Score Key Assessment and 5 being “Excellent” Score Key Assessment.
    This scoring will be applied to all applications and will be equally weighted.

Applicant company requirement


  • What if I am an innovator with a relevant solution in a technology area that falls out of the scope of the Made Smarter Innovation Sustainability Accelerator?

    The Made Smarter Innovation Sustainability Accelerator will only consider solutions via the four technology areas defined. This is due to our support and workshops being focused on and around these areas as well as the identified opportunity for growth from the sector with the adoption of these technologies. If you work in these broad technology areas but a specific focus of technology is not listed it is likely your application will be relevant. Applications will be judged on the proposed application of technologies as well as how this supports and responds to the industry challenges set.

  • What are the technology solutions that will be considered as part of the Made Smarter Innovation Sustainability Accelerator?

    The technology solutions that will be considered for the Made Smarter Innovation Sustainability 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.)
    • Artificial intelligence and machine learning (natural language processing, machine vision, deep learning)
    • Immersive technologies – Extended reality (virtual, augmented, mixed reality and haptics)
    • 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 that offer the most impact and outputs to the manufacturing sector.

Funding & legal

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

    All successful participants will be required to complete and sign a standard Programme Participation Agreement before (see above) the start of the programme and prototype development phase 1. 

  • Will there be a standard NDA to cover discussions with the Industry Challenge Owners?

    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 possible that an NDA may be required with some of the Industry Challenge Owners around the work directly with them, but this will be handled directly between the innovator and Industry Challenge Owner.

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

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

  • What if my resources run over budget?

    The Made Smarter Innovation Sustainability Accelerator funding is £75,000 for up to eight winning applicants each, who will participate in the Prototype Development Phase one. Further expenditure produced by the companies will have to come from their budget.

  • How will I receive the funding through the Made Smarter Innovation Sustainability Accelerator?

    Funding will be awarded in pounds sterling (GBP) into a UK business bank account associated with the entrant organisation. 

    Phase 1: Prototype Development

    Each company is funded with £75,000 to develop solutions that address the manufacturers’ challenges. The funding will be allocated to each successful onboarded applicant as follows:

    • 25% paid at the start as long as participants provide a business plan including distribution and exploitation plan, finance and budget plan, timeline, confirmation of final team, technical information, completion of Programme Agreement and State Assistance declaration.
    • 25% paid after an informal demonstration of the solution progress so far.
    • 50% paid after demonstration of the solution development at the Midpoint Development Review event in October 2024. Participants provide an updated business plan, detailing distribution and exploitation plan, including the lessons learned during phase 1 and potential sustainability impact of the proposed solutions. 

    For any companies selected to continue for phase 2 the milestone breakdown would follow the same payment split.

    Participants shall receive the grant as Minimal Financial Assistance (“MFA”), or to the extent applicable under the Northern Ireland Protocol, the de minimis aid regulations (COMMISSION REGULATION (EU) No 1407/2013), collectively referred to herein as “State Assistance.

    The total State Assistance received or due to be received by an individual Participant (including any associated companies e.g. subsidiaries), originating from a United Kingdom source, must not exceed £315,000, or €200,000 (approximately £165,000) for Northern Ireland Companies (or any other company subject to the Northern Ireland Protocol), each in aggregate across the Participant’s current fiscal year (as at the Agreement Date) and the previous two fiscal years.

  • How much funding is available for the selected applicants?

    Each successful team will receive a funding of  £75,000 for the Prototype Development Phase one.

Sign up to Digital Catapult newsletters

Don’t miss out on Digital Catapult’s updates – with regular news, insights and opportunities in advanced digital technologies.

Contact us

If you have any additional questions about the Made Smarter Innovation Sustainability Programme, please email madesmartersustainability@digicatapult.org.uk


Join the Made Smarter Movement

Register to find out how Made Smarter can support you on your digital journey.