Frequently Asked Questions

Select each question below to expand

  • How do the Seagate and Open Challenge differ in regards to technical support, business guidance, and the £75,000 funding opportunity?

    All projects will receive the same level of access to technical and business support from Digital Catapult. However, depending on which challenge you choose, Digital Catapult can make every reasonable effort to tailor the support to your needs.

    This can include access to; industry or education setting 5G testbed facility, photonics equipment and Digital Catapult’s immersive lab.

    All applicants will have the same opportunity to compete and win £75,000, the choice of challenge will not influence the funding potential.

  • What is the selection criteria?

    The selection criteria to assess and select the applicants are the following and each of them has the same weight.

    • Relevance of Proposed Idea 

    How is the idea relevant to the challenge.

    • Strength and Originality

    The idea presents an innovative solution to the challenge.

    • Team Expertise

    The team is equipped with the appropriate technology and business skills, and has a good track record to deliver the proposed solution within 16 weeks.

    • Feasibility and Viability 

    The idea addresses one of the challenges, is relevant to the programme theme and is feasible within the budget and timescale of the call.

    • Impact and Development Plan

    The proposal can demonstrate an ambition for positive impact in the region and is likely to be suitable for further development after the programme.

    During the application process we reserve the right to conduct enhanced financial or legal due diligence to ensure applicants will be able to meet all commitments.

  • How will matters of commercial sensitivity be managed by the programme team?
    • All the information you share with the Innovation Team will be confidential
    • Only share what you feel comfortable with in sessions
    • Participants may be asked to sign non-disclosure agreements
  • What will be the outputs of this programme for my business?

    Participants will develop skills in smart technologies, and will have the insight on how to use these technologies to solve the challenges or address the opportunities identified. Digital Catapult will support the applicants on creating a roadmap to put this plan into action.

    Applicants will become Alumni of Digital Catapult and will be signposted to other relevant programmes and sources of useful information.

    You will also have the chance to be involved in communications and publicity around the programme, resulting in increased exposure for your business. 

    The chance to win £75,000 funding from techstart ventures, (which will be a claim back process)

  • What resources are made available to participants during the programme?
    • Demonstrations and detailed overviews of digital technologies for industry and specific use cases
    • Use of the Immersive Lab, Photonics Testbed and 5G Testbeds at Digital Catapult facilities.
    • Collaborative work space at Ormeau Baths for workshops
    • Off-site visits may be scheduled to partner’s facilities, such as Seagate Technology, Derry~Londonderry
    • 1-2-1 time with dedicated Technologists, covering 5G, Immersive, Photonics, the Internet of Things and Artificial Intelligence
  • Is travel and subsistence covered for subsistence?

    No, unfortunately the terms of our funding dictate that we are unable to support travel and subsistence for participants.

  • Do you provide funding for participants?

    The ten companies will pitch at the end of the programme and one winner will receive £75,000 of grant funding from Techstart Ventures to continue to develop the PoC.

  • How is the programme funded?

    The programme has been made possible by the Smart Nano NI consortium, which has been awarded £42.4m UK Research and Innovation’s Strength in Places Fund. The total project value including leveraged funding from other sources is £63.9m.

  • How is my information treated?

    The application information will be used by Digital Catapult and its partners in compliance with GDPR regulations. It will only be used for the purposes of the programme and its evaluation, and will be securely retained by Digital Catapult only for the duration of the programme.

  • What if I am currently involved in another accelerator programme or have been involved in a previous Digital Catapult programme?

    Participation in accelerators or other start-up support programmes does not preclude you from taking part in this Challenge Led Programme. 

    If you have been part of any previous Digital Catapult programme you are welcome to join this one. 

    For other programmes your participation will be dependent on the terms of the programme itself, the capacity of your team and what you have agreed to in the terms and conditions. De minimis funding will also need to be considered when applying to join the programme.

  • Will Digital Catapult take equity in the participating companies?

    No, Digital Catapult does not take equity in participating companies.

  • Does my company need to be UK or NI registered to apply?

    Yes. Your company must be registered on Companies House as a UK or NI business. Applicants must be registered in NI to be eligible to win the funding from Techstart Ventures. 

  • Where will the programme be based?

    This programme will be hybrid with some workshops based in Ormeau Baths and other partners facilities. 

  • Who are the judges and when will I hear back on the result of my application?

    Applications will be judged by a team of experts from Digital Catapult, Techstart Ventures and Seagate. Successful applicants will be informed on the result of their applications early December 2023.

  • What happens if my application is successful?

    If your application is successful, you will be notified by email within a few weeks with an onboarding pack.

  • What are the key dates for the programme?

    Register for Interest: 1st September 2023

    Applications Close: 15th November 2023 at 23:59

    The time commitment for participants will be 40 hours over 16 weeks (January 2024 – April 2024) This will include attending masterclasses, innovation support and 1-2-1 mentoring from technologists. The programme will be hybrid, with physical access to testbeds required.
    However these dates may change slightly over time. We aim to give as much notice as possible.

  • What is the deadline for applications to be submitted?

    15th November 2023 at 23:59

  • What are the benefits of this programme?
    • Free for applicants.
    • Participants will have support to develop a PoC and trial with a potential future customer
    • Participants have the chance to win £75,000 to continue to develop their PoC
    • All parties are supporting the regional ecosystem
    • Participants will have access to testbeds including 5G, Photonics and Immersive.
    • Networking and learning opportunities from peers in the same and similar fields.
    • Access to office hours from Techstart Ventures
  • What are the eligibility criteria for the programme?
    • Your company must be registered on Companies House as a UK or NI business.
    • Applicants must be registered in NI to be eligible to win the funding from Techstart Ventures.
    • Have a demonstrable idea or solution to solve the listed challenges
    • Be available for at least 8 of the sessions, which will be hybrid with some sessions in person in Belfast.
    • Applicants must be eligible to receive £79,830 in-kind of State Assistance. This is the combined state aid amount for Digital Catapult’s accelerator programme, and the grant funding awarded by Techstart Ventures.
  • What is Smart Nano NI?

    Smart Nano NI is a Northern Ireland consortium which aims to develop game-changing advanced prototyping and smart manufacturing methods to deliver new technologies. The consortium shares a niche capability around nanomanufacturing and world-leading knowledge in photonics. 

    The consortium has been awarded £42.4m by UK Research and Innovation’s Strength in Places Fund. The total project value including leveraged funding from other sources is £63.9m. Our collaboration is aimed at driving self-sustaining local industry and economic growth through research and innovation.

  • Who will be running the Manufacturing Innovation Challenge?

    Digital Catapult is delivering the programme as part of the Smart Nano NI consortium.

  • What is the Manufacturing Innovation Challenge?

    This acceleration programme will support the development of innovative digital PoC’s for up to 10 companies, which will be led by Digital Catapult. This programme will provide business and technical support to companies and facilitation knowledge sharing and mentoring.

    Northern Ireland start-ups will have the chance to win a £75,000 proof of concept grant as part of a new Smart Manufacturing innovation competition launched by Techstart Ventures, Seagate and Digital Catapult.

     For this challenge, the focus is on:

    • Using immersive technology to aid the manufacturing process, to create improvements in efficiency, quality and/or health and safety.

    There is also an opportunity to apply for an Open Challenge.

    Open Challenge

    If the Industry Partner led challenges from Seagate Technology do not address your focus or current R&D priorities please apply to the Open Challenge option of this call. We encourage businesses to apply to this call with areas of research and development (R&D) that are relevant for your roadmap.

    The following are examples of challenges you may wish to develop a solution for but this list is not intended to be exhaustive:

    • Connect legacy devices/machinery to a 5G network.
    • Improve accessibility and visualisation of manufacturing data. 
    • Address questions of sustainability and netzero in the production process.
    • Using a 5G network for asset tracking throughout a manufacturing facility.
    • Predictive maintenance of machinery and tooling using AI.
    • The use of Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) for carrying goods that can be summoned and tracked.


    If you apply for either the Seagate Challenge or the Open challenge, you will have the equal opportunity to win the £75,000

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