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Improving Observation Capabilities of Biodiversity in UK Waters

General & Misc
Project Size:
Share of up to £750,000

Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, is working with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to invest up to £1.5million across 3 years in grant funding for innovation projects that can improve the observation capabilities of the UK’s waters, towards improved assessment and evaluation of the status and risks to natural capital assets. These can include the data acquisition, communication, storage, analysis and modelling systems.

This will be a two stage competition.

This first stage competition is for the development of key technologies and capabilities, that can be used for more effective and efficient observation of biodiversity in natural capital assets.

The later stage 2 competition will be for the development of complete end-to-end marine monitoring systems and their verification and validation. These must include on-site testing in an operational environment, or data curation, validation, analysis or visualisation.


Your project must:

  • have total project costs up to £75,000 for single applicants
  • have total project costs between £75,000 and £200,000 for collaborations
  • start by 1 February 2023
  • end by 31 July 2023
  • last up to 6 months
  • carry out all of its project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK

You must only include eligible project costs in your application.

Under current restrictions, this competition will not fund any procurement, commercial, business development or supply chain activity with any Russian and Belarusian entity as lead, partner or subcontractor. This includes any goods or services originating from a Russian and Belarusian source.

To lead a project or work alone your organisation must:

  • be a UK-registered business of any size or a research and technology organisation (RTO)
  • be or involve at least one micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME)

If the lead organisation is an RTO it must collaborate with 2 businesses (one SME and one business of any size).

Academic institutions cannot lead or work alone.

To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must be one of the following UK registered:

  • business of any size
  • academic institution
  • charity
  • not for profit
  • public sector organisation
  • research and technology organisation (RTO)

Each partner organisation must be invited into the Innovation Funding Service by the lead to collaborate on a project. Once accepted, partners will be asked to login or to create an account and enter their own project costs into the Innovation Funding Service.

If collaborating, the lead and at least one other organisation must claim funding by entering their costs during the application

Your project can include partners that do not receive any of this competition’s funding, for example non-UK businesses. Their costs will count towards the total project costs.

Subcontractors are allowed in this competition.

The aim of this competition is to develop key technologies and capabilities or proof of concept systems that can be used for more effective and efficient observation of biodiversity in natural capital assets.

We are looking for technologies and systems that can operate in depths up to 100m and significantly improve the current ocean monitoring data acquisition and analysis methods and systems. Improvements can be in areas such as, but not limited to:

  • in situ sensors or samplers
  • sensor or sampler carrying platforms
  • accuracy, reliability, endurance and ease of use of coastal and marine monitoring systems
  • data analysis and visualisation systems

Your proposal must clearly:

  • explain which part of the end-to-end marine monitoring system you will be focusing on
  • explain the concept of operation and the marine environment that the targeted or final marine monitoring system will be operating in
  • describe the improvements sought, providing the measurable key performance indicators (KPIs) that will be used to determine the degree of improvement
  • describe what is innovative about your project and explain the technological maturity at the start and end of the project
  • demonstrate an understanding of what the development and testing of a complete marine monitoring system will entail
  • identify other market needs that could be met by your project’s deliverables and objectives
  • demonstrate the project’s output in the appropriate relevant environment, either the sea or laboratory

We want to fund a variety of projects across different technologies, marine monitoring systems, technological maturities and specific themes. We call this a portfolio approach.

Specific themes

Your project must focus on one or more of the following:

  • improvements on the spatiotemporal density, quality or costs of samples or sensing data acquisition
  • provision of calibrated water column assessment sensors capabilities, enhancements, or operational aspects
  • presence, quantity, and quality of ecosystem assets, for example, quantitative eDNA to monitor marine species
  • seabed surveys, including the collection of physical samples, or in situ measurements, as well as further laboratory or ship-based evaluation
  • acoustic surveys, including enhancing existing survey methods, or increasing sensitivity to detect changes
  • measuring levels of carbon storage or sequestration rates in a given marine environment
  • sensor or sampler carrying platforms used for in situ data or sample acquisitions; for example floats, un-crewed vehicles, moorings, tide gauges, gliders and surface drifters
  • post-acquisition samples or data analysis
  • visualisation and interpretive systems
  • ways and means for human pressure monitoring

Your project can include other themes relevant to the scope of this competition but must include at least one from the list of specific themes.

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