KTN SPARK Awards 2019

Posted on: 16/09/2019

A call for up to 10 KTN SPARK Awards is now open for projects in Livestock & Aquaculture, Food & Drink, Industrial Biotechnology, and Plants & Crops.


The Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) is pleased to announce a call for KTN SPARK Awards as a means to encourage new collaborations between the research community and industry. Projects must be in one of the following four market sectors; Livestock and Aquaculture, Food and Drink, Industrial Biotechnology, and Plants & Crops.

This call is now open, with up to 10 SPARK awards available.

The deadline for applications is midnight Friday 1st November 2019.

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What is a SPARK Award?

SPARK Awards provide funding to establish new collaborations between research partners (University or Research Technology Organisation) and Small/Medium-sized Enterprises* (SMEs) based in the UK. These awards are intended to help resource small confidence building measures between an SME and a research based partner that is likely to lead to a longer-term relationship.

The collaboration supported by a SPARK Award can comprise almost any defined piece of work by the research partner for the industrial partner, such as a student project, data analysis, technical consultancy, a feasibility study or literature review. Experience has shown that these awards result in improved interaction, and new research and technology transfer projects.


* Definition of an SME: Fewer than 250 full-time employees. Either an annual turnover not exceeding 50 million Euros or an annual balance sheet total not exceeding 43 million Euros. Less than 25% owned by a larger organisation (unless these are financial investors, such as banks or venture capitalists). Not a research centre, research institute, contract research organisation or consultant.

Value of SPARK Awards

The grants are of a fixed value of £10,000 (plus any applicable VAT) and are awarded to the research partner to tackle a problem relevant to the SME. The scheme is designed to provide quick approval with minimal bureaucracy, in keeping with the value of the grant. There is total flexibility in the way in which the funding may be committed, except that all work must be completed within six months of the agreed start date of the project.

Project eligibility and award criteria

There are up to 10 SPARK Awards available in this call. Two awards will be allocated to each market sector. The remaining two awards will be allocated between the market sectors on the basis of application merit.

  1. Both the SME and research partner applicants must be UK based
  2. The SME partner contribution to the project is normally expected to be at least equivalent in value to the £10,000 grant, as a cash and/or in-kind contribution (e.g. can include staff time spent on the project).

These awards will fund innovative ideas from the Agri-Food and Industrial Biotechnology sectors. Below are some areas that are covered by these awards, but this does not exclude projects from outside these areas.

Livestock and Aquaculture (applied to farm animals and aquaculture):

a)  Animal breeding
b)  Animal health
c)  Animal nutrition
d)  Precision agriculture
e) Livestock and aquaculture production

Food and Drink

a) Diet and health interactions
b) Enhanced nutritional value
c) Process and formulation technologies
d) Food safety, authenticity and traceability
e) Modern methods of manufacturing
f) Packaging

Industrial Biotechnology

a) Biofuels
b) High-value biochemicals and biomaterials
c) Biocatalysis and pathway engineering
d) Biorefining and bioprocessing

Plants and Crops

a) Increasing crop yield and quality
b) Improving sustainability and resilience to climate change
c) Crop protection strategies
d) Precision agriculture

Up to ten awards are available across all four sectors and KTN reserves the right to adopt a portfolio approach to ensure projects are selected across the four areas of this remit.

The Allocation Process

Applications for the SPARK Awards will be reviewed by an evaluation panel comprising KTN staff, and the members of the relevant Sector Groups of the KTN and will be awarded on merit according to the criteria outlined below.

  • Relevance to the remit of this call
  • Quality of the work proposed
  • Value of the clearly defined project deliverable(s) to the SME
  • New partnerships that have not jointly received funding from any source
  • Potential for the creation of new long-term relationships between the partners
  • Benefit to the research and SME partnership
  • Value for money
  • The contribution of the SME partner to the project, which can be in kind
  • Research Partner‚Äôs track record

Within the remits described above, priority will be given to proposals that:

  • Help get ‚Äòsomething‚Äô to market (technology transfer)
  • Work towards ‚Äòsolving‚Äô a technical problem for an SME
  • Will result in applications for funding of new collaborative research or technology transfer projects. Examples might include the preparation of an application for collaborative projects funded through the Innovate UK competition; a BBSRC Industrial Partnership Award; a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP)
  • Help an SME improve the technology aspects of its Business Plan
  • Adapt an existing technology for a new application
  • Help improve an SME‚Äôs capacity to innovate

Application Procedure

The online application form can be accessed here.

Step 1: Download (via this link or from the Related Documents section below) and complete the case for support document. This document will outline the key project details and case for funding. This will form the main part of your application so we recommend you start this as soon as possible.

Step 2: Once your case for support document is ready, fill out the online application form, which can be accessed here. Make sure you have both partners contact details to hand as all fields are required. We recommend that you do not leave this to the last minute!

Step 3: Attach your case for support document (the attachment must be a Word Document, NOT a PDF file) and press ‘submit’.

Please note:

  • Applications may be submitted by either party but please only submit your application once.
  • We are happy to respond to enquiries, and assist SMEs in helping find research partners, please contact a member of the team (details below) well in advance of the deadline.
  • Only Application Forms received by midnight Friday 1st November 2019 will be considered.
  • Applicants will be notified of the outcome of their application by the 1st December 2019. If your application is successful, subject to verification of status, you will be offered a grant of ¬£10,000 (plus applicable VAT) for the research partner to carry out the work proposed in your application. The partners and titles of successful applications will be published by KTN.

Administration of projects

Before the start of the project: A start date must be agreed between KTN and the successful applicants.

Projects must be completed within 6 months from the agreed start date of the project. Please note that all projects must be completed by 3rd August 2020.

Once the project has been completed:

  1. The research partner must write and submit a short Project Report of the work undertaken. This report must be approved and signed by the SME partner.
  2. In addition to the Project Report above, the partners must complete and return a short “Project Completion” form, which includes a public summary of about 250 words which will be published by KTN.
  3. Once these two documents have been submitted, the research partner should raise an invoice to KTN detailing the project expenditure. The deadline for receiving the required documents and invoices is the 14th August 2020.

The grant is payable in arrears to the research partner and will only be paid after all documents required and mentioned above have been received.

Important: There will be no negotiation on this deadline and extensions will not be granted. If a project is not completed in this time the funding award will be withdrawn.

Further information and contacts

We have provided answers for many common questions in our FAQ document which can be downloaded here or from the Related Documents section below.

If you require any further clarification please email us at spark@ktn-uk.org.

You can contact individual members of the KTN Agri-Food Team through our website here and members of the KTN Industrial Biotechnology Team here.

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