SME Innovation Challenges 2018 now open to applications

March 2, 2018 11:20 am

The SME Innovation Challenges 2018 project is now and live and open to applications.  The D2N2 Growth Hub, University of Derby and Nottingham Trent University have launched this new project.  In short, the aim of this is to help to bring together SMEs and large PLCs.  In other words, to enhance supply networks and develop working relationships between SMEs and large organisations operating in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. 

Supply network opportunity

In collaboration with AMEY PLC, SME Innovation Challenges 2018 is looking for SMEs to provide innovative solutions to AMEY’s challenges.  Businesses are therefore invited to apply to be part of an innovation process.  Moreover, this project will provide funded business support leading to a competitive pitch process for a place on AMEY’s supply network.

SMEs will apply with solutions to challenges set by AMEY PLC.  As a result, they will then undergo a process of shortlisting, training and final pitching to secure a place on a supply network.  AMEY are looking for a range of small to medium sized companies that can be called upon to deliver key capabilities as part of present and future bids for contracts.  And also for companies to work with them to deliver innovation and proof of concepts throughout AMEY’s business.  Furthermore, this could potentially lead to opportunities with their parent company Ferrovial.  AMEY are also interested in working with SMEs on developing future funding proposals for schemes like Innovate UK.

Further information and application

Businesses taking part in the final stage of the process will also have the opportunity to pitch in front of finance providers, including investors and funding providers.  Furthermore, successful applicants will receive additional business coaching to help develop the working relationship with AMEY after this process has concluded.

Furthermore, individual SMEs or collaboration applications are eligible.  Moreover, applications are open to SMEs in all sectors and this process is fully funded at no cost to SMEs.  However, this project does not guarantee SMEs a contract or investment.  As a result, successful SMEs will receive a place on the network of the prime organisation, beginning a working relationship to match solutions to the challenges.

Benefit to SMEs

  • Learn about the business support and funding opportunities within D2N2
  • Access to University and Growth Hub business support, equipment and facilities
  • Funded pitch readiness training
  • Access to Finance opportunities
  • The opportunity to win a place on a supplier network with AMEY PLC
  • Experience in a competitive pitching process
  • Networking and peer to peer learning
  • Access to consultancy support for application submission
  • Support available to any business that is selected at the final application process to maximise impact

Application Process

In order to qualify, the following must apply to your business:

  • SME status (Small to Medium Enterprise)
  • Ideally with a presence in one of AMEY’s contract areas across the UK.  While this is preferable, it is not essential.
  • Desire to be part of the supply network to AMEY PLC
  • A good understanding of the sectors AMEY works in and the services they supply
  • An understanding of the challenges of air quality in urban areas
  • Ability to provide innovative solutions to the challenges set
  • A commitment of time and resources to attend the workshop programme, shortlisting pitch and final pitch
  • Have the ability to commercialise ideas to provide a sustainable solution that can be developed (this can be in planning stages, whilst AMEY are not making a financial commitment, the Growth Hub and Universities will work with SMEs to try and access funding for this where required).
  • Agree to have contact details shared with AMEY, University of Derby, Nottingham Trent University and D2N2 Growth Hub
  • Agreement to be featured by company name in marketing and promotions conducted by the D2N2 Growth Hub

Online applications opened on 27 February.  Moreover, the application form can be downloaded and completed electronically.  The completed application form should be submitted via email before the deadline of 12 noon on 28 March 2018.

Support available

As part of the application process, businesses have the opportunity to access support in compiling their submissions.  Once your business has agreed that it meets all the criteria listed above, please either email David Richards, Business Adviser or call him on 07825 344654.

The application support will begin with a short discussion regarding your planned submission.  Suitable applications will be provided with a face-to-face or telephone consultation depending on your business needs.  Consultations may take place at your business premises, via telephone or at one of the pre-arranged appointment sessions at Derby University.

It is expected that at the point of contact, applicants will already have a good understanding of the whole project process, AMEY as a service provider and the challenges being responded to.  The support provided will assess and support with: suitability, relevance to the challenges, to what extent the application meets the brief, preparation and wording.


Applicants will be notified of the outcome of their submission on 3 April.  Successful applicants will have the opportunity to register on to the training workshops.  Moreover, all business will be provided with a business adviser session.

Training Workshops: 4 April – 4 June

Businesses can attend four full-day funded workshops focusing on ‘pitch readiness’, developing a business case, identifying and presenting your USP.  The workshops will be delivered by professional trainers and include peer to peer networking.

Day 1: Developing your Business Case 1: Tuesday 17 April
Dunston Meeting Room, Dunston Innovation Centre, Dunston Road, Chesterfield, S41 8NG

Day 2: Presentation and Pitching Day 1: Tuesday 24 April
Dunston Meeting Room, Dunston Innovation Centre, Dunston Road, Chesterfield, S41 8NG

Day 3: Developing your Business Case 2: Tuesday 15 May
Stewart Room, East Midlands Chamber, Commerce House, Millennium Way, Dunston Road, Chesterfield S41 8ND

Day 4: Pitching and Presenting Day 2: Tuesday 22 May
Stewart Room, East Midlands Chamber, Commerce House, Millennium Way, Dunston Road, Chesterfield S41 8ND

Each session will run from 10am to 3pm. Parking is available on both sites.

26 June: Shortlisting presentations

Each presentation will be 15 minutes long with a further 15 minutes for Q&A.  Time and venue tbc.

17 July: Final pitch to AMEY

Each presentation will be 20 minutes long with a further 20 minutes for Q&A.  Businesses taking part will also be pitching in front of a panel of finance providers to expand the opportunities available.  Finance partners will be looking for innovative businesses suitable for investment.

23 July: Announcements made to SMEs

At all stages of the process, businesses will have the opportunity to access additional support available through the Universities and D2N2 Growth Hub.  There is no financial commitment from AMEY to develop solutions; businesses are competing for a position on AMEY’s supply network. The D2N2 Growth Hub, University of Derby and Nottingham Trent University will work with businesses to look at funding options where required.

AMEY Challenges

Local authorities (and those organisations contracted to deliver transport services) face a major challenge in delivering transport networks which function efficiently and effectively.  While, at the same time,  tackling air quality resulting from congestion, specifically Diesel vehicles.  AMEY, in its role as a transport network provider to a number of UK cities and local authorities, recognises that air quality is a major challenge for these authorities.  AMEY want to work with innovative companies to find solutions to this problem.  Either through new technologies or approaches to network management – exploring solutions addressing the challenge of poor air quality while managing a transport network.

SMEs are therefore asked to provide solutions to one or more of the following:

  • The future of air quality focused transport modelling
  • New technologies which can ‘clean’ poor quality air
  • New approaches to transport network management in relation to managing air quality
  • Other technologies/techniques to tackle air quality (either its cause or reducing its impact)

Applications encouraged

Applications can address one of the challenges as a solo solution or cover more or all of the four challenges. Please state in the application which of the above challenges the solution relates to.  Above all, AMEY are looking for fresh thinking approaches to the challenges listed.  SMEs are invited to respond with either tried and tested ideas or even brand new innovations.

AMEY are keen to encourage applications from companies with experience in the relevant sectors and businesses that are new to these sectors and responding to business challenges.  Applications are welcomed from all sectors, including technological solutions not traditionally aligned with the sectors that AMEY currently works in but can provide a solution to one or more of the challenges AMEY has proposed.

At present, Transport Managers have limited tools to manage air quality within transport networks. This is a hot topic for local authorities, a priority for many LEP areas and AMEY are facing increasing pressure from clients to look at ways to tackle air quality and implement this within transport network management.  AMEY believe that having the ability to offer intelligent services will expand their commercial opportunities and competitiveness within the marketplace.

At the end of this process, AMEY hope to have found innovative and competitive solutions that can be provided to clients as part of a wider transport network management plan.  Furthermore, SME partners could have the opportunity to manage this as part of a consultancy service under the AMEY offer.  Examples of this could be: intelligent signage, allowing drivers to take self-responsibility, educating the public and highlighting air quality levels in each area.

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