Grant information


closed    Opened: 16 March 2022   |   Closes: 27 April 2022

Description

This is a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition funded by the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA).

This is a single phase competition.

Your project must focus only on the development of bespoke technologies and methodologies in one of the 5 challenges in the LongOps programme:

  • Challenge 1: Generic architectures and interfaces for interoperable robotic systems and digital twins
  • Challenge 2: CorteX control system software assurance
  • Challenge 3: Research and development of novel methods, systems and algorithms for path planning, control, vibration suppression to support nuclear decommissioning operators’ using long reach systems
  • Challenge 4: Development of novel techniques for incorporating haptics on virtual training platforms
  • Challenge 5: Research and development of novel techniques and technologies for automated change and anomaly detection, and incorporating sensor data into digital twins

In applying to this competition, you are entering into a competitive process.

Any adoption and implementation of a solution from this competition would be subject to a separate, possibly competitive, procurement exercise. This competition does not cover the purchase of any solution.

This competition closes at 11am UK time on the date of the deadline.

Funding type

Procurement

Project size

Projects can range in size up to total costs of £150,000 inclusive of VAT.

Who can apply

Your project

Your project must:

  • start by 1 July 2022
  • end by 31 December 2023
  • last between 6 and 18 months
  • have total project costs of up to £150,000 inclusive of VAT

If your project’s total costs or duration fall outside of our eligibility criteria, you must provide justification by email to support@iuk.ukri.org at least 10 working days before the competition closes. UKAEA will decide whether to approve your request. If you have not requested approval or your request has not been approved, you will be made ineligible, and your application will not be sent for assessment.

Applicant

To lead a project, you can:

  • be an organisation of any size
  • work alone or with others from business, research organisations, research and technology organisations or the third sector as subcontractors

Contracts will be awarded only to a single legal entity. However, if you can justify subcontracting components of the work, you can employ specialist consultants or advisers. This work will still be the responsibility of the main contractor.

Eligibility overview

Here is a diagram showing a summary of eligibility.

This is a new way of showing you eligibility. Your feedback will help UKAEA to improve it.

Funding

A total of up to £1.5 million inclusive of VAT is allocated to this competition.

The £1.5 million will support projects across all 5 challenges.

The total funding available for the competition can change. The funders have the right to:

  • adjust the provisional funding allocations
  • apply a ‘portfolio’ approach

The contract is completed at the end of the competition, and the successful organisation is expected to pursue the commercialisation or further development of their solution.

Value Added Tax (VAT)

You must select whether you are VAT registered before entering your project costs.

VAT is the responsibility of the invoicing business. UKAEA will not provide any further advice and suggest you seek independent advice from HMRC.

VAT registered

If you select you are VAT registered, you must enter your project costs exclusive of VAT. As part of the application process VAT will be automatically calculated and added to your project cost total. Your total project costs must not exceed £150,000.

Not VAT registered

If you select you are not VAT registered, you must enter your project costs exclusive of VAT and no VAT will be added. You will not be able to increase total project costs to cover VAT later should you become VAT registered. Your total project costs must not exceed £150,000.

Research and development

Your application must have at least 50% of the contract value attributed directly and exclusively to R&D services, including solution exploration and design. R&D can also include prototyping and field-testing the product or service. This lets you incorporate the results of your exploration and design and demonstrate that you can produce in quantity to acceptable quality standards.

R&D does not include:

  • commercial development activities such as quantity production
  • supply to establish commercial viability or to recover R&D costs
  • integration, customisation or incremental adaptations and improvements to existing products or processes

Number of applications

Organisations can apply multiple times for the competition challenges. Each application must only address a single challenge and must be for a standalone project, with no dependency on other applications or projects.

If successful with multiple applications, you must evidence you have the resources and capacity to undertake the projects.

Subsidy control

SBRI competitions involve procurement of R&D services at a fair market value and are not subject to subsidy control criteria that typically apply to grant funding.

Scope

Your proposal

LongOps is a 3.5 year £12 million programme of R&D that brings together three international nuclear decommissioning use cases:

  • decommissioning in the UK by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA) and Sellafield Limited (SL)
  • decommissioning of the Fukushima Daiichi reactors in Japan by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO)
  • fusion remote operations (UKAEA)

The use of robotic systems and digital technologies in the 3 use cases vary. The Joint European Torus (JET) reactor uses these technologies to support and facilitate remote maintenance, inspection and handling tasks. But the technologies are not currently being used in a decommissioning context.

For Sellafield and Fukushima Daichi, robotic systems and digital technologies are not widespread due to the complexity of robotic hardware, regulatory approval and the increased safety concerns associated with digital technologies. Additionally, unstructured environments introduce unique challenges which are not necessarily present in structured environments.

The aim of this competition is to develop digital technologies to address the 3 use cases in each of the 5 challenge areas and to develop a supply chain supporting decommissioning activities in the future.

Your project must focus only on the development of bespoke technologies and methodologies in one challenge area in the LongOps programme. Your project must be a standalone project, with no dependency on other projects or applications.

You can apply for multiple challenges with separate applications.

Software integration between different challenge areas is not in scope.

Your project must be able to demonstrate the technology in a relevant environment with proof-of-concept demonstrations in the challenge areas.

You must have a credible and practical route to market, so your application must include a plan to commercialise and further develop your results.

Specific challenges

Your project must address one of the following challenge areas:

Challenge 1: Generic architectures and interfaces for interoperable robotic systems and digital twins

The objective of this challenge is to formulate an evaluation strategy and to provide an assessment of existing open standards and architectures. Consideration must be given to interfaces with synthetic environments, simulators and digital twins.

Your project must:

  • increase software maintainability and extensibility, and reduce integration effort
  • reduce integration efforts with use of generic open standards

Your application must address at least one of the following:

  • evaluation of the existing open interfaces, standards and architecture for software maintainability and extensibility
  • development of new novel generic software interfaces that can minimise integration efforts

More information on the specification and the background of this challenge can be found at https://race.ukaea.uk/longops/

Challenge 2: CorteX control system software assurance

CorteX is a software framework for interoperable, plug-and-play, distributed, robotic systems-of-systems developed at the UKAEA. The aim of this challenge is to evaluate CorteX and to assess if it is assurable. UKAEA is interested in testing CorteX against some of the toughest existing software assurance standards to investigate its suitability to contribute to Challenge 1.

Projects must demonstrate the application of existing intelligent software verification tools for such tasks, and in doing so increase confidence in using digital tools in nuclear decommissioning.

Your project must:

  • enhance software safety using software verification techniques
  • assure software against existing standards

Your application must:

  • propose a case study for boundary definition and testing
  • provide an evaluation of CorteX using software verification tools

More information on the specification and the background of this challenge can be found at https://race.ukaea.uk/longops/

Challenge 3: Research and development of novel methods, systems and algorithms for path planning, control, vibration suppression to support nuclear decommissioning operators' using long reach systems

The objective of this challenge is to research, develop and evaluate novel software, methods and systems that can support nuclear decommissioning operators' using long reach robotic systems.

Your project must:

  • improve operational safety with strategic task sequencing
  • increase operational safety using (semi-)autonomous algorithms for remote operations
  • reduce operators’ cognitive load with supportive features in human-machine interfaces and autonomy
  • increase efficiency of the operator controlling the long reach system by enhancing control of the flexible long reach manipulators

Your application must develop at least one of the following:

  • novel multi-objective optimisation for strategic task sequencing using digital and computational tools, supporting the optimisation of tasks in complex and uncertain operating settings, prior to the initiation of actual operations
  • automatic collision avoidance and dynamic collision free motion planning systems to support operator-in-the-loop and semi-autonomous remote operations
  • novel control solutions to improve positional accuracy and repeatability for long flexible manipulators, including, but not limited to, appropriate modelling methods, novel sensors to augment estimation algorithms, mechanical devices, and advanced control algorithms

More information on the specification and the background of this challenge can be found at https://race.ukaea.uk/longops/

Challenge 4: Development of novel techniques for incorporating haptics on virtual training platforms

The objective of this challenge is to develop a virtual haptic-enabled platform for operator training and assessment along with nuclear robotic operation task development

Your project must:

  • help training operators using haptic training simulator
  • present scenarios to the operators that can be encountered during real operations
  • increase operators’ competency by simulating faults and other undesired behaviours typically encountered in physical setups
  • reduce operators’ training cost and time by reducing the need to access physical mock-ups

Your application must address at least one of the following:

  • the development of a complex haptic digital twin (HDT) examining the delivery of novel and reliable techniques for incorporating haptic rendering on the manipulation of non-rigid, flexible items and other soft components
  • haptic interactions with simulated deformable or non-rigid objects
  • haptic interactions with cable or rope type objects
  • haptic interactions with simulated object properties, for example, shape, texture, temperature, weight
  • the simulation of faults in haptic devices or simulated manipulators
  • constraints on motion for individual joints or axes of operation
  • the integration of live data into haptic simulation, for example, point cloud, manipulator joint data
  • tactile feedback for manipulation of finer objects
  • the application of tactile feedback for object recognition (‘virtual skin’)
  • multi-point contact haptics
  • haptic stability
  • rendering kinematic constraints of the simulated manipulator

More information on the specification and the background of this challenge can be found at https://race.ukaea.uk/longops/

Challenge 5: Research and development of novel techniques and technologies for automated change and anomaly detection, and incorporating sensor data into digital twins By integrating robust, real-time data gathered from visual, geometric, radiation, temperature, or acoustic sensors, into digital twins, UKAEA wants to enhance awareness of the unstructured environments. This will provide the operator with real-time decision support tools to help in de-risking operations.

Your project must:

  • enhance operators’ awareness of the environment
  • provide data monitoring overtime including component wear, structural and chemical changes
  • provide operators’ decision support based on sensor data
  • support maintenance activities by automated change detection techniques

Your application must develop at least one of the following:

  • novel sensor fusion and perception algorithms for real-time digital twins
  • predictive and detection tools for anomalies and faults
  • tracking techniques and automated reconfiguration
  • mesh generation, registration, shape parameter and pose estimation, reconstruction
  • motion and environment change detection, which can include voxel difference estimation using octrees, Bayesian modelling
  • virtual rendering of physical (such as radiation, temperature) and geometric (point clouds, meshes, CAD) parameters
  • overtime radioactivity monitoring and visualisation
  • visual anomaly detection
  • sensing error detection

More information on the specification and the background of this challenge can be found at https://race.ukaea.uk/longops/

Research categories

Technical feasibility studies

This means planned research or critical investigation to gain new knowledge and skills for developing new products, processes or services.

The supplier will work closely with the stakeholders to develop a solution. The outcome of the feasibility study should lead onto the development of a prototype.

Prototype development and evaluation

This can include prototyping, demonstrating, piloting, testing and validation of new or improved products, processes or services in environments representative of real-life operating conditions. The primary objective is to make further technical improvements on products, processes or services that are not substantially set.

Projects that will not be funded

UKAEA will not fund projects that:

  • do not address how any potentially negative outcomes, such as on the environment or society, would be managed
  • do not evidence the potential for their proposed innovation to generate positive economic or societal impact
  • would directly duplicate other UK government or EU funded initiatives you have already been funded to deliver
  • are covered by existing commercial agreements to deliver the proposed solutions

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