Canada-UK Critical Minerals: Sustainability and Circularity

UK registered organisations and Canadian SMEs can apply for a share of up to £5.4m for joint R&D projects on circularity in critical minerals.

Opportunity Details


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The total grant funding request for all UK partners can be up to £400,000 for each application, which can cover p to 70% of costs depending on project type and business size. NRC IRAP will provide a contribution of up to CA$500,000 to each eligible Canadian SME participating in the project.


Innovate UK

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Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, will work with the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP) to invest in innovation projects.

Up to £3.5 million from Innovate UK and up to CA$3 million from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP), an equivalent of approximately £5.4 million in total, has been allocated to fund innovation projects in this competition.

The aim of this competition is to support collaborative research and development (CR&D) through Canadian and UK partnerships, to assist the development and commercialisation of circular solutions for critical minerals.

Your proposal must demonstrate co-development, have a high innovation potential and address a technological challenge. It must include a plan for future exploitation leading to full commercialisation, and it must ensure all necessary environmental, social and governance (ESG) and regulatory challenges are addressed.

Canada partner requirements

Canadian funding applicants are required to register and submit an Expression of Interest (EoI) to the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP). The registration deadline for Canadian SMEs applying to the EoI is 15 December 2023. Canadian funding applicants who do not complete an EoI and have not been invited to proceed will not be eligible for funding through this competition.

  • There must be a “project lead” and this can be either a UK business of any size or a Canadian SME. The project lead is responsible for managing the entire project.

    The “lead applicant” is the organisation that starts the application on the Innovation Funding Service. This must be a UK business (of any size). Canadian organisations can be a project lead but cannot start an application on IFS for system functionality reasons.

    Your collaboration must involve at least one grant claiming UK registered SME and one eligible Canadian incorporated, profit orientated SME.

    To collaborate with the lead applicant, you must be one of the following:

    • UK registered business of any size
    • UK registered academic institution
    • UK registered research and technology organisation (RTO)
    • a Canadian incorporated, profit orientated small or medium-sized enterprise (SME)
    • National Research Council of Canada (NRC) researcher
    • Canadian university
    • Canadian research technology organization (RTO)

    A UK business can only lead on one application but can be included as a collaborator in one further application.

    A UK business that is not leading an application can collaborate on a maximum of two applications.

    A Canadian SME may only participate in one application.

    UK or Canadian research organisations can collaborate in any number of applications.

  • Your project must:

    • have a grant funding request of no more than £400,000 allocated to UK organisations
    • have a grant funding request of no more than CA $500,000 allocated to each eligible Canadian SME
    • start by 1 September 2024
    • end by 31 August 2026
    • last between 12 and 24 months

    Projects should have a balanced contribution of the total eligible project costs among the partners from the UK and Canada.

    No one country or project partner can represent more than 70% of the total project cost.

    The majority of the project work must be undertaken in the UK and Canada.

    Your proposal must demonstrate a clear intention to commercially exploit the results of the project domestically or globally.

  • The aim of this competition is to foster and support collaborative research and development (CR&D) in critical minerals through Canadian and UK partnerships.

    Your joint Canadian and UK project must focus on innovative technologies that enable the development and commercialisation of circular solutions for critical minerals and their supply chains. The project focus should be on the minerals and not on the end application performance.

    Your proposal must focus on one or more of the following five themes:

    1. Enhanced Circularity in Critical Minerals – Battery Systems

    For example:

    • Improving recovery or efficiency of recovery of critical minerals from battery systems, for example cobalt, nickel, lithium, manganese, from black mass
    • Improving recovery or efficiency of recovery of new critical mineral streams from battery waste, for example graphite, silicon, phosphates

    2. Enhanced Circularity in Critical Minerals – High Performance Permanent Magnets (HPPM)

    For example:

    • Safe and economic identification, collection, sorting, separation, dismantling of rare earth element (REE) containing end-of-life products
    • Novel and sustainable routes for processing of recovered REE materials

    3. Sustainable Use of Critical Minerals – Processing & Manufacturing

    For example:

    • Novel manufacturing methods and processes across the value chain (from mine to end-product for use in battery systems or high-performance permanent magnet applications) to enhance circularity and sustainability of critical minerals

    4. Sustainable Use of Critical Minerals – Reduction in Use

    For example:

    • Novel approaches to reduce reliance on existing critical minerals
    • Complete substitution of critical minerals and systems

    5. Innovations in Environmental, Societal, Governance (ESG) for Critical Minerals

    For example:

    • Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) and sustainability models for LCA of critical minerals and systems
    • Measurement and accounting for embedded carbon, radioactivity and other environmental and societal impacts of REE
    • Provenance, for example material passports, digitization or traceability of critical minerals and systems

    The examples listed for each theme are not exhaustive.

    We particularly encourage projects that:

    • involve consortia which span the supply chain of extraction, refining or processing, manufacturers, integrators and end user businesses
    • seek to progress innovative and scalable technologies from laboratory prototypes to industry ready systems for commercial use
  • For the purposes of this competition ‘critical minerals’ are defined as either:

    1. Critical minerals identified as either ‘high criticality’ (17 minerals plus the rare earth elements group) or identified in the first ‘watch list’ (5 minerals) in the Resilience for the Future: The United Kingdom’s Critical Minerals Strategy published on 22 July 2022.
    2. Critical minerals identified (29 minerals plus the rare earth elements and platinum group metals group) in Annex A of the Canadian critical minerals strategy published on 09 December 2022.
  • Two matchmaking events are scheduled for 15 and 16 November 2023. These will consist of short knowledge sharing sessions and opportunities to pitch your projects to the audience, this will be followed by informal online networking to showcase knowledge on world class research and innovation in the critical minerals supply chains.

    Join this virtual event and you will also gain access to the B2Match platform – this will allow you to schedule online 1:1 meetings with other attendees at a mutually convenient time outside of the session hours, up until the close of the competition.

    Wednesday 15th November 2023 will focus on batteries and magnets innovation opportunities in the critical minerals and manufacturing processes for critical minerals value chains, including circular economy approaches from dismantling through to repurposing and reprocessing, and also finding alternatives to critical minerals

    Thursday 16th November will focus on innovation opportunities in cross cutting topics including Environmental and Sustainability reporting methods, critical minerals provenance and supply chain tracking and Life Cycle Assessment approaches.

    Click here to register for a place on the online matchmaking events.

  • In addition to the above matchmaking events (which you are strongly encouraged to attend), Innovate UK will hold a competition briefing at 4pm UK time on Thursday 23 November 2023. Click here to register for a place.

    If you would like help to find a collaboration partner, contact Innovate UK KTN’s Materials team.


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