The aim of this competition is to help businesses to create designs for innovative goods, services or business models that will result in less persistent plastic waste entering our environment. This should be achieved by them obtaining a better understanding of relevant customer and user behaviours.

To lead a project or work alone your organisation must be a UK registered business of any size. Academic institutions cannot lead or work alone. Businesses can work alone or in collaboration with project partners.

This competition aims to stimulate innovation in design to reduce persistent plastic waste from landfill or entering the environment.

Your project should follow established human-centred research and design principles. It could involve working with new or existing partners, in new ways, and it must involve hands-on customer/user research as a means of informing and testing novel ideas. These ideas could include the radical re-design of existing goods, services or business models, or the design of entirely new ones which serve an existing need in a way that doesn’t rely on single-use plastic.

Here the term ‘design’ is understood broadly to include all necessary disciplines to arrive at a new design specification, and could include contributions from engineering, materials science, service design, circular design and systems thinking.

At completion, we expect projects to deliver a well-informed and viable design concept for an innovative product, service or business model, along with actionable next steps for development and towards commercialisation.

The new designs may be for either business-to-business or business-to-consumer applications. Where possible, the new design should enable reuse or product life-extension approaches over recycling. Design and investigation of new business models and consideration of driving behaviour change are also encouraged. If the focus of your project is ‘Design for Recycling’ then the outcome must be compatible with existing recycling infrastructure and technology.

Applicants should clearly describe where revenue generation and growth will occur in the UK as a result of the innovation and its exploitation. The benefits of the new approach should be quantified as far as possible, and any assumptions regarding market size and environmental impacts described and justified.

Innovate UK are looking to fund a portfolio of projects across:

  • sectors, including but not limited to packaging, transport, construction, healthcare, agriculture and consumer products;
  • design disciplines including but not limited to industrial, product, user experience (UX) and service design (all with a human-centred approach)

We are not funding projects that:

  • develop a novel product or component which is single-use
  • involve the production of any kind of fuel or direct energy generation from plastic waste
  • create any form of ‘Design for Recycling’ guidance

An online briefing event was held on 20th May: watch the recording here.