Improving Observation Capabilities of Biodiversity in UK Waters

UK registered organisations can apply for a share of up to £750,000 for innovation projects that can improve the observation and assessment capabilities of biodiversity in the UK’s waters. This funding is from DEFRA.

Opportunity Details


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Your project’s total costs must be up to £75,000 for single applicants or between £75,000 and £200,000 for collaborations. Up to 70% of project costs can be covered by the grant.



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Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, is working with the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) to invest up to £1.5 million 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


To lead a project or work alone your organisation must:

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.

Any UK registered business or organisation can collaborate.


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

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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