UMBRELLA Competition Brief

1. Introduction

Our vision for UMBRELLA was to create an open research and development testbed supporting de-risking of investments though 1) technology validation, 2) business models testing and 3) training future labour force so that multiple stakeholders can develop and test their innovations. However, although important innovations such as IoT have been around for over a decade, SMEs need more support to bring these innovations to market.

The UMBRELLA competition aims to support promising digital technology SMEs from the South Gloucestershire, the South-West region and across the UK to further develop their innovative products, by offering them financial and technical support to trial their solutions through the UMBRELLA network.

Through this competition, South Gloucestershire Council will provide funding from the UK Government’s Community Renewal Fund to some of the most innovative UK-based SMEs. This funding will be distributed as operational support for piloting ideas that demonstrate real positive impact at the regional level using the world-leading programmable Industrial IoT network offered by UMBRELLA.

UPDATE1: Phase 1 of the competition was launched on the 21st February 2022 at 15:00 (GMT), with a deadline on the 21 March 2022 at midnight (previously, 14th March 2022 at 12:00 GMT). Up to 5 SMEs are expected to be awarded in the first phase of the competition.

UPDATE2: Phase 2 of the UMBRELLA competition will close on 16 May 2022, at noon. Applications must be submitted via:

  • Any applications not already evaluated in Phase 1 will be evaluated in Phase 2, following the selection process described in Section 8.
  • In addition, remaining SMEs that successfully pass the Phase 1 Jury Evaluation but are not among the top 5 awarded in this phase, will be re-evaluated alongside Phase 2 submissions.
  • Up to 5 additional SMEs are expected to be awarded in Phase 2 of the competition.

1.1 About UMBRELLA

UMBRELLA is unique, offering a one stop shop for IoT and Digitalisation of research and development projects in the UK and globally with its multi-sector and multi technology offering with remote programmability and the real-world deployment aspects. The network was built with the purpose of accelerating research and developing testing of innovation, applications, processes, products, services and new business models to ascertain their usefulness and viability before taking them to market.

Our UMBRELLA network and testbed management portal supports various use-cases by providing common facilities for users to log in, deploy software (services, firmware and applications) in order to evaluate experiments that run on the testbed. These experiments can run in parallel and so multiple user sessions can coexist and resources can be shared.
The following use-cases can be supported:

  • Hardware Designers – can easily plug in their new sensor or radio hardware to the UMBRELLA node using common interfaces such as USB, I2C, SPI etc.
  • Software Developers – can remotely upload software algorithms and wireless protocol to the UMBRELLA node and network, to evaluate their performance based on existing UMBRELLA sensing and radio technologies installed in the real world.
  • Platform Users – can connect their own research prototypes to the UMBRELLA node by using one of the selected radio technologies. Experiment and testing data can be collected remotely via the UMBRELLA platform by login to the UMBRELLA web portal.
  • Data Users – can develop and deploy new applications to the UMBRELLA node and collect experiment data. For example, AI and Machine learning based R&D activities.

2. Benefits of applying

Successful SMEs will have access to:

  • Equity-free funding to support the implementation of the testbed trials. South Gloucestershire Council would typically expect to fund bids between £3,000 – £25,000.
  • Technical support during the testbed implementation.
  • Access to the UMBRELLA network facilities.
  • Training recommendations depending on the specific needs of each SME.

3. Considerations for applicants

This competition addresses digital technology SMEs legally established in the UK who can benefit from the UMBRELLA services to overcome their technology development challenges.
SMEs should demonstrate the best use of one or more of the following facilities:

Successful applicants will also have to demonstrate how their product, service or application addresses key national or regional challenges such as (but not limited to) improving biodiversity and the environment, achieving zero carbon targets in public buildings, actions that meet the needs of an ageing population and using technology to support council services.

Examples are provided below of the type of projects and technologies we expect to enter the competition. Please note the lists are non-exhaustive and are meant as a guidance for applicants rather than an indication of what projects might be successful. Entries that pass the pre-sift stage (Section 4) will be evaluated on the judging criteria defined in Section 5.

Examples of technological challenges SMEs may be looking to address with their projects

  • Using air quality sensor data to improve the environment or transport network performance
  • Using wide area sensor network to improve biodiversity
  • Robots to support local council services
  • Achieving zero carbon targets in public buildings (e.g., schools)
  • Wireless network challenges to connect IoT devices and enhance network performance to meet diverse application needs from smart meters, connected car, teleoperation and telesurgeries
  • Standardization and interoperability challenges
  • Energy consumption challenges
  • Digital twins for energy / carbon net zero or process efficiency optimisation and assessment in: buildings, transport, or automation/robotics
  • 5G business case challenges
  • Security and Privacy challenges
  • Deployment and maintenance challenges

Technology examples

  • Data Access
  • Data Storage
  • Data analysis
  • Dashboard (data representation and UI)
  • Data Processing (Edge Processing)
  • Connectivity
  • Localisation techniques
  • Sensor hardware
  • IoT security
  • Robotics hardware (manipulation, AGV)
  • Robotics simulators
  • Digital Twin software


4. Minimum requirements (Pre-sift stage)

Applicants must comply with the following requirements for their application to progress to the Evaluation Stage:

4.1 Company requirement: The competition addresses digital technology SMEs legally established in the South-West of England or the rest of the UK before the start of the programme.

4.2 Submission: Entries must be submitted:

  • in full,
  • through the official application form,
  • using the competition templates, and
  • before the closing of the competition.

4.3 Clarity and completeness: Please make sure that your proposal is written in clear language that provides sufficient information on each aspect of the application form. Your proposal should include clear descriptions on how your proposal meets the scope of the competition, how the activities proposed will be completed within the given timeline and sufficient technical information to allow the technical feasibility assessment to take place. Your budget should comply with the financial guidance provided and should align with the activities planned.

4.4 Team requirement: Each SME should have at least two members assigned to the project, of which at least one team member should have proven technical expertise.

4.5 Conflicts of interests: UMBRELLA partners, or their affiliate entities or employees should not apply to this competition. Potential conflicts of interest will be assessed case by case.

4.6 Healthy finances: Insolvent entities, entities which are under liquidation or are excluded from the possibility of obtaining public funding under the provisions of national law will not be funded under this competition and will not be accepted to participate in the engagement programme.

Please make sure you have reviewed the competition requirements before submitting your bid. Note that we strongly advise to only submit one application, as only one application per SME (typically the most recently submitted) can be awarded.

5. Judging criteria (Proposal evaluation stage)

Applicants to the competition will be evaluated based on the programme requirements and the core criteria presented below.

  • Level of innovation: The application is clear on the innovation of the proposed solution and on the degree of differentiation that the product/service/project is bringing.
  • Implementation:
    • Technical feasibility: The application demonstrates a good understanding of the UMBRELLA facilities, and a clear and realistic vision for using UMBRELLA during the engagement phase of the programme.
    • Goals: The application should clearly list the outcomes to be achieved by the end of the programme and how the UMBRELLA platform will be used to achieve them.
    • Resources: The entry should demonstrate the best use of resources for achieving the listed goals.
  • Impact:
    • Internal: The application clearly describes what are the business gains for SMEs entering the competition (e.g. speeding up their development cycle, getting them closer to market, etc.).
    • External: The application addresses the call’s priority areas, demonstrating how the product/service/project addresses local, regional and/or national challenges.

6. How to apply

All entries should be submitted in full through the following official application form before the closing of the competition to be reviewed and considered:
Please note that to access the form you must register on the UMBRELLA portal:
Application notices:
Three documents should be prepared and submitted with your application:

  • Your Application Proposal (you must use the official competition template). Formats accepted: document, .pdf.
  • Your Finance Form (you must use the official competition template). Formats accepted: spreadsheet.
  • Your Project plan (should be a Gantt chart, no template provided). Formats accepted: document, spreadsheet, .pdf.

7. Key dates

7.1 Phase 1

The Phase 1 key dates are included in the table below:

Date Event
21 February 2022 (15:00 GMT) Competition launch
7 March 2022 (15:00 GMT) Live Briefing Event. Download the presentation.
21 March 2022 (midnight) Closing of Phase 1
22 – 5 April 2022 Selection process
6 – 7 April 2022 Pre-selected winners consulted individually
8 April 2022 Announcement of up to 5 winning SMEs (Phase 1)
8 – 21 April 2022
Due diligence and contract signature
Update: 26 April – 15 September 2022 Phase 1 engagement programme (project implementations)

7.2 Phase 2

The Phase 2 key dates are included in the table below:

Date Event
16 May (noon) Closing of Phase 2
9 – 25 May 2022 Selection process
23-24 May 2022 Pre-selected winners consulted individually
30 May 2022 Announcement of up to 5 winning SMEs (Phase 2)
31 May – 14 June 2022
Due diligence and contract signature
6 June – 29 October 2022 Phase 2 engagement programme (project implementations)

8. Selection process

8.1 Pre-sift stage

Applications will first undergo an initial screening to ensure the minimum competition requirements outlined in Section 4 are met. At this stage, the UMBRELLA technical team will assess if your proposal can realistically be implemented within the available timeline (approximately 21 weeks).

Your proposal can be rejected at the pre-sift stage if it does not:

  • meet the requirements outlined in Section 4 (minimum requirements), and
  • pass the technical feasibility assessment conducted by the UMBRELLA technical team.

8.2 Proposal evaluation stage

All proposals passing the pre-sift stage will continue to the evaluation phase. During this phase, proposals will be assessed by a panel of independent judges based on the Judging Criteria outlined in Section 5. Decisions will be reached through a point-based voting system, applied on the following sections of your application:

Section Weighing
Application Proposal: Product and level of innovation 20%

Application Proposal: Implementation

Finance Form

Project Plan

Application Proposal: Impact 40%

In case of ties, the final selection decision will take into consideration the regional focus (applications from the West of England will be given priority), project variety and prioritise applicants from underrepresented groups.

The decision on who will be joining the engagement programme is taken by the organising team, based on the feedback received from the judging panel, information submitted through the application form, any additional information gleaned from its due diligence, and their knowledge. This decision is final.

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