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From grant to greatness: the automotive funding programme accelerating net-zero carbon innovation

For companies in the early stages of developing innovative new technology, securing investment and funding can often be a challenge – a reality that is even more apparent in the automotive industry.

It is this challenge that inspires a dedicated early-stage funding programme from the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC). Specifically designed for innovators within the auto world, the Technology Developer Accelerator Programme, or TDAP, aims to help companies develop the technologies needed to propel the UK towards a net-zero emissions future.

Now in its fifth year, TDAP offers small businesses up to £135,000 of grant support for early-stage automotive technology and product innovation. The competition is open to ambitious micro, small and medium-sized enterprises who are working to develop on or off-vehicle technology, products or services that support either zero-emission vehicle development or the shift to net-zero carbon automotive products.

Designed to support SMEs in fast-tracking their early-stage innovations to market, TDAP targets companies with Technology Readiness Levels between 2-4. TDAP provides them with not just funding, but invaluable business guidance and access to industry experts.

Recognising that no two ventures are alike, APC has structured TDAP in a way that meets the varying needs of participating businesses. Josh Denne, Head of SME Programmes at the APC explains: ‘At the APC we believe any industry wanting to encourage commercially-viable innovation must provide more than just funding. Developers also need practical advice, skills and mentorship to find a successful route to market.

‘By linking technology developers with a range of industry experts – or as we call them, Delivery Partners, our aim is to provide successful applicants with a systematic, phased approach to building their businesses – a 360 degree programme of support to help great ideas flourish in a commercial space.’

APC recognises that, whilst most people developing new technologies have some understanding of Intellectual Property (IP), many have not yet completely considered its full commercial and financial implications; including its potential in providing income or raising future finance. As such, TDAP starts with intellectual property experts Inngot who take developers through the process of identifying and protecting their intangible assets.

Next up is specialist strategic consultancy E4tech who aid participants in translating a technology concept into a solid commercial proposition. Looking specifically at the market application of each technology, E4tech helps to answer the questions: What problems does it solve? What technical need will it meet? It then helps to define a value proposition and pathway to break into the chosen markets.  

Towards the second half of the programme, Productiv, a low carbon engineering product development company, leads on the critical final phase where SMEs must consider the ‘real world’ aspects of delivering their finished product. With a sharp focus, Productiv helps companies consider the initial aspects of manufacturing, supply chain, compliance and engineering support, providing them with a complete roadmap for manufacturing their product. 

Finally, for many SMEs that are taking a new product to market, access to the right investment to power-up their businesses is a key challenge. To help them overcome this, TDAP provides a short and sharp investor readiness course from the UK Business Angels Association (UKBAA). Participants are given the opportunity to learn about the investment process, the UK investment landscape and critically, are provided 1:1 pitch coaching with experts that have raised millions in private investment. 

Ultimately, the impact of TDAP is measured by the progress of its participants through the programme. Since its inception in 2017, TDAP has provided over £5 million in funding to 31 promising, low emission technology projects and Brill Power is one business that made the most of the scheme. The award-winning University of Oxford spin-out participated in Wave 3, throughout 2019 and 2020, and at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Despite inevitable challenges, the Brill Power team harnessed all of the opportunities and resources made available to them to create a working prototype of its novel battery management system – which maximises and optimises battery life without compromising safety and performance.

Whereas many automotive companies suffered through 2020, Brill Power was able to ramp up its operations. Since its TDAP participation, the five-year-old company has been successful in attracting an incredible £2.5 million in public and private funding to advance its innovative technology for the stationary storage and automotive markets.

So how can you get involved?

There are just two weeks left to apply for the chance to receive support from TDAP Wave 5. For many developers in the early stages of technology readiness, applying for funding and support can be a daunting prospect. To help make the process as simple as possible, Josh Denne has provided his top tips for a successful application. 

Top Tips for Applying to TDAP

Get the detail right: You know your idea better than anyone; the assessor doesn’t. Take the time to fully dissect the key mechanisms, applications, and USP of your innovation, so that you can explain it thoroughly to an educated but ultimately uninitiated audience – consider having someone that fits this profile review your application and highlight anything that needs to be further elucidated.

Make it visual: A picture paints a thousand words (plus a few, if it’s well-labelled). Consider including a drawing or schematic with your application, to help the visual learners amongst us. We understand you might be rightly hesitant to risk your intellectual property so we don’t expect you to include sensitive information relating to your idea. Consider how you might be able to communicate your design to the fullest extent without giving away your secrets.

Keep it simple:

Competition for places on the programme is strong so we want to devote a good amount of time to reading each application. Concision and clarity are key to communicating your idea.

What does it offer the APC?: Familiarise yourself with the APC’s mission and values. We exist to accelerate the automotive industry’s transition towards net-zero. Make it clear how your idea will support this objective, taking into account the potential economic impact for the wider UK supply chain.

TDAP’s consistent success lies in its measured approach – fast-tracking without rushing the process – and recognising the importance of holistic, dedicated, expert guidance alongside financial support. This combination has already helped an impressive roster of SMEs to bridge the gap from concept to commercialisation, and set them on the path from grant to greatness.

Ready to join them? Applications close on 14th April 2021. Technology developers can find out more and submit Expressions of Interest here: https://www.apcuk.co.uk/competition/tdap-wave-5/

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