SME R&D Programme Round 2 FAQs

This page cover the following sections,

1. About the Programme

2. Eligibility Criteria

3. Expression of Interest Form (EOI)

4. Funding Provision

5. Shortlisting Process


About the Programme

What is BFTT?

BFTT stands for the Business of Fashion, Textiles and Technology Partnership. It is a five-year project, led by University of the Arts London, in partnership with UK universities, research institutions, companies and trade organisations. BFTT is working across seven challenges, including a dedicated programme in support to fashion, textiles and technology small and medium-size enterprises across the UK -the BFTT SME R&D Support Programme.

BFTT is part of the Creative Industries Clusters Programme, funded by the Industrial Strategy Fund and delivered by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, part of UK Research & Innovation (AHRC-UKRI).

 What are the BFTT SME R&D Programme’s key aims?

 The Programme offers a comprehensive range of coordinated activities that aim to:

  • Foster a creative and supportive business research and development culture, which will enable fashion, textile and technology SMEs to thrive using bespoke R&D as a mechanism for innovation and growth.
  • Advance the development of sustainable and technologically engaged FTT products, services and experiences.

How does the Programme work?

 The programme helps SMEs to:

  • Develop viable and strategic R&D propositions throughout the shortlisting process.
  • Connect with appropriate industry and academic experts.
  • Prototype conceptual ideas and test innovations – benefitting from bespoke & expert mentoring through the implementation phase – from 12 to 30 months depending on the complexity of the project.
  • Implement industry changing ideas sustainably through additional funding and dedicated project resource.

What makes this Funding Call Unique?

  • YOU – the Programme addresses the challenges and specialist requirements of FTT SMEs and aims to showcase the sector’s potential.
  • The Programme is informed by leading FTT industry and academic partners who are working collaboratively in order to make a real difference to FTT brands of the future.
  • The Programme provides targeted funding, training and expertise across relevant areas including technology, product and service development and sustainable innovation.
  • Awardees will emerge from the Programme ready to take their businesses to the next level, having developed, prototyped and tested the commercial potential of their innovation ideas.


Eligibility Criteria

Who is eligible to apply?

 UK-based SMEs trading for a minimum of 2 years as a fashion, textiles or related technologies business.

  • UK-based SMEs trading for a minimum of 2 years in the FTT sector, applying in partnership with a 2nd industry partner. See below for more information about applying in partnership with another company.
  • UK-based SMEs that wish to advance their market position and make a positive impact in the sector through research and development (R&D) of new products, services and/or experiences.

 What is an SME?

SME is the acronym for ‘Small and Medium-Size Enterprises’. The most widely used definition in the UK is the one provided by the European Commission (Recommendation 2003/361/EC, 01/01/05) which defines SMEs based on their headcount, turnover and/or balance sheet as follows:

SMEs are small and medium-size businesses that:

  • Employ less than 250 people
  • Have an annual turnover not exceeding EUR 50 million and/or
  • Have an annual balance sheet total not exceeding EUR 43 million

Micro businesses (those companies with a turnover under EUR 2 million and less than 10 employees) are also included in this definition. See more information here.

My company would like to apply in partnership with another company? Would a joint application be eligible?

We welcome applications from single SMEs or those proposing a project that requires them to work collaboratively with other industry partners. The types of collaborations that would be eligible are:

A. Two complementary SMEs (e.g. a fashion brand and a technology company). In this case, both SMEs could apply for funding to cover some of their project related costs for a combined maximum of £250,000. One of the SMEs will need to apply as the Lead Applicant.

B. An SME working collaboratively with a larger industry partner (e.g. a textiles design house and a large manufacturing, technology or retail company). In this case, the SME can apply for funding for costs related to the project for up to a maximum of £150,000. The programme will not, however, be able to fund the costs of the larger industry partner and their contribution to the project would be considered and recognised as an in-kind match-funding contribution to the project.

What is ‘match-funding’?

All projects are expected to provide some match funding. This could include both cash match funding and match funding in-kind (e.g. another organisation may provide you with an access to expertise or specialist equipment free of charge or a free venue for showcasing your products/services, etc).

The minimum thresholds for cash and in-kind match funding vary depending on your company’s turnover (see The Funding Provision below for more details).

What is R&D?

Research and Development (R&D) refers to innovative activities and investment undertaken by corporations or governments with the aim of developing new services, products, or improving existing services, products or processes. R&D allows firms to gain a competitive advantage within the marketplace by performing in a way that their rivals cannot easily replicate, and it often leads to a new type of product, service, some IP generation or a patent registration.


Expression of Interest (EOI)

What is the EOI? Is it the same as an application?

The EOI (Expression of Interest) is an initial form where we are asking you to provide some information about your company and an initial outline of the idea/project you are proposing. It is not yet a formal application. Only shortlisted companies will be invited to fill in an application.

What is the purpose of the EOI form?

The EOI provides the shortlisting panel with some basic information to be able to make an initial assessment of the eligibility and potential of your project/idea before requiring you to submit a full application form.

I am unsure how to answer some of the questions. Are all questions in the EOI mandatory?

Not all questions in the EOI are mandatory, only those marked with an asterisk in the form. As this is only the EOI stage, if you are unsure how to answer them, you can choose to leave them blank or write N/A (not applicable). However, the more information assessors have about your project/idea, the easier it would be to be able to assess its eligibility/potential. So, make sure you answer all the questions that you think are important to describe the potential of your idea/project.

What if the question is not relevant to my business/company?

Some questions might not apply to your business/ company and if so, please just write N/A (not applicable). The call is open to a broad range of companies, from fashion brands to textile manufacturers to technology companies and material specialists, therefore, not all questions are relevant to every sector.

Could I save my answers and return to the form at a later date?

No, the EOI submission form uses Microsoft Forms which does not allow for responses to be returned to at a later date if the submission form is closed.  You can access the EOI form questions in this document (BFTT R&D SME Programme EOI Form Questions) in order to prepare responses offline so a submission can be done in one attempt. When completing the Form, your answers can be accessed in previous sections before submission.


The Funding Provision

Is the funding provided considered De Minimis State Aid?

Yes, any grants issued by the programme will be made subject to compliance with all applicable state aid regulations.

What is De Minimis?

In order to minimise distortion of competition the European Union sets limits on how much assistance can be given without its prior approval to organisations operating in a commercial market.  De Minimis Aid Regulation (EC Regulation 1407/2013)* states that a ceiling of €200,000 should be observed for any De Minimis Aid provided to any one organisation over a three fiscal year period.

* Commission Regulation (EU) No 1407/2013 of 18 December 2013 on the application of Articles 107 and 108 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union to De minimis aid, OJ L 352 24.12.13, p1

What is the value of the awards?

An SME can apply for a maximum of £150,000, while joint applications including more than one SME can apply for a combined total of £250,000 (see also section 2 above about putting forward a joint application/ applying with a partner).

(N.B. As noted above, grants will be made subject to compliance with all applicable state aid regulations).

What does the grant cover?

  • Strategic partnering with academic mentors plus workshops and coaching (fully funded by the grant)
  • A part time, fully qualified Project Lead to coordinate the delivery of the project (fully funded by the grant)
  • Budget for materials, machinery expenses, as well as relevant subsistence and travel expenses, workspace and studio rental (providing up to 90% of qualifying costs – with the remaining amount provided by the applicant as match funding)
  • Showcasing opportunities to test the results (retail, tradeshows, etc) as appropriate (providing up to 90% of qualifying costs – with the remaining amount provided by the applicant as match funding)
  • Access to University labs, equipment and studio space if required (providing up to 90% of qualifying costs – with the remaining amount provided by the applicant as match funding)


Company contribution/ match-funding: a minimum of 10% (10% for businesses with a turnover up to £250K; 20% for all other SMEs) contribution/ match funding is required from all participating companies.


The Shortlisting Process

What happens after we submit the EOI?

EOIs will be assessed by an independent panel and scored based on the selection criteria (see below).  Up to 15 EOIs will be shortlisted. All shortlisted projects will receive bespoke mentoring support to help them prepare a fuller application including a more detailed project implementation plan, budget and business case.

Shortlisted companies will then have the opportunity to pitch their project plans to a Commissioning Panel that will make recommendations to BFTT’s Programme Management Team for the final selection of the awarded projects.

What selection criteria will be considered to assess the EOIs?

Expressions of interest will be assessed against the following selection criteria:

Relevance: Project and business fit amongst the BFTT SME R&D Support Programme themes.

Innovation: How innovative the proposed project is compared to what’s already available in the marketplace.

Impact: The proposed impact the project will have on driving the FTT sector and beyond to become more sustainable as a whole.

Feasibility: Is the proposed project feasible given timeframes, funding, available expertise and market positioning.


When will we hear if we have been shortlisted?

Shortlisted companies will be notified by the 21st of September 2020.

You can access the Expression of Interest form here.