£18m Collaborative R&D Competition Round-up and Entry Tips

Collaboration Café

It's been a particularly hectic month for zipping up and and down the country hosting the Partnering for Innovation events, promoting the £18m Collaboration Across Digital Industries competition.

If you've missed out, the good news is that there's another chance to find out about this competition, the Digital Communications KTN are running a briefing in London on 5th July (info here).

Over the course of the events, there's been dozens of presentations, heaps of official-looking information, hundreds of conversations and, for me, a lot of learning in the way that groups can collaborate.

That's a massive amount of information and despite the wonders of technology, it's actually quite tricky to bring this all together, especially with so many organisations involved.

So - brace yourselves - I've pulled everything I can find, into one slightly giant web page that includes:

I hope this'll be a useful reference for those seriously considering putting in an application. You'll find everything here:

Partnering for Innovation: Collaboration Across Digital Industries

Having been immersed in the process for the last few weeks, some of the information has permeated my conscious. Below, I've attempted to summarise my take on what you need to know...

Scope, Baby, Yeah!

If your entry is rejected, the chances are, it's out of scope. Remember school when you were advised to read the paper thoroughly before starting. The same applies here. It's worth looking at the TSB Metadata competition and the Digital Test Beds project to get a handle on the wider context. Spend some time watching the video interview with the TSB discussing the challenges and the scope in more detail. If you can tackle all three of the challenges outlined, you have a higher chance of success.


This can be a tough challenge if you're not already working with, or talking to another organisation. Roland Harwood's talk on open collaboration is a great primer for thinking about approaches on this. Two of his points resonate for this competition: firstly, to start by visualising the end point. Making sure that all partners have the same goal. Secondly, realising that the process is U-shaped. The start'll be great, the end will be awesome, but in the middle, you'll be slogging away. Naturally, he's much more eloquent!

Finding Partners

The Knowledge Transfer Network's (KTN) mission is to help on this front. Everyone who attended the Partnering for Innovation events, therefore likely to be looking for partners, are listed on the Creative Industries KTN's Beacons social network. For the networking, hardware and systems side of things contact the Digital Communications KTN.

Don't Dumb Down The Sell

Competition entries are assessed by a panel of industry experts for the TSB. These people are no dummies, so you don't need to dumb down your idea. They'll get it. You will, however, need to articulate the benefits clearly and concisely. The forms are deliberately short and you'll need to stick to the size limits.

Show Me The Money

£18m is a lot of money and there's no such thing as a free lunch. However, the aim is to allocate the bulk of this, around £10m, in the first round of proposals. Bare in mind that this is match-funded up to 50% of the project cost. The good news is that this match-funding can be 'in kind' i.e. through salaries, investment in hardware. The rules around match-funding with academic partners are a little more involved, so be sure to read them thoroughly.

100 Hours

From discussions with previous competition winners and the TSB folks, that's roughly how much time it takes to put together an application for a mainstream project (over £100k). Fast-track projects should take less time.

No One-Hit Wonder

If you're not successful this time around, there will be further rounds for this competition (and the others the TSB is running). The time spent on the proposal won't be wasted as you can use this as a basis for future applications.

No Ready? No Cry!

OK, terrible Bob Marley pun, I apologise. The first rounds of the competition take place this year, but second rounds are due to take place in 2011, so if you're not ready yet, don't worry. Better still, you have a chance to ponder the scope at greater length and find the perfect partner.