Levelling-up SMEs to accelerate net-zero growth with the Technology Developer Accelerator Programme (TDAP)

How we ‘level-up’ the UK’s regions has been a centrepiece of conversation ever since the 2019 general election – and whilst there are fresh delays with Michael Gove’s highly-anticipated white paper, at the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) we’re already confident that zero-carbon innovation from UK-based companies both large and small is key to a green and thriving future for the country.

Levelling-up demands that we set our sights beyond regeneration to revolution – and that’s what our Technology Developer Accelerator Programme (TDAP) is helping to deliver. TDAP is our dedicated programme for early-stage innovators in the transport sector, aimed at incubating the technologies needed to project us towards a net-zero future. Since its inception, TDAP has supported small companies from across the UK, from Brill Power in Oxford, LiNa Energy in Lancaster, and CATAGEN in Belfast.

TDAP has always been about much more than money. We do provide early-stage grant-funding; since launch, the programme has benefited from more than £7 million funding and supported over 70 SMEs. But funding alone isn’t enough. TDAP provides access to experts with commercial, technical and marketing knowledge who can work with innovators to maximise their potential. The 18-month phased programme marries grant funding, technical support and business mentoring from our delivery partners to ensure the success of start-ups, spinouts, and SMEs across the UK.

Your great idea is your greatest asset

Innovation is invaluable, but – paradoxically – for early-stage technology developers, it must be valued.

As a technology developer (TD), intellectual property (IP) has significant implications for the long-term viability and identity of your business, so even if you’re not at a stage to patent your invention, it’s never too early to begin the process of quantifying and safeguarding the value of your greatest asset – your own ideas and expertise.

By partnering with experts, TDAP guides TDs through the complex process of identifying what IP and related intangible knowledge-based assets they have, how they can better strengthen and protect them, and how much they might be worth in relation to accessing investment or bank funding, or for licensing purposes. Some knowledge-based assets, like patents and trademarks, are obvious; but there are many others, such as the skills, experience and know-how within the team, which are more difficult to identify and quantify. It also looks at how much the technology could be worth, linking TDs to further legal and professional support as required.

From concept to commercial proposition

Your great idea will not move the dial on decarbonisation if it is not commercialised, in use and taking the place of more polluting technology. Bridging the gap from concept to commercial viability requires a solid value proposition, which can only be defined through data-driven analysis and nuanced critiques from industry experts.

For this crucial process, TDAP partners with strategy consultants, specialising in sustainable energy and transport. Looking specifically at the market application of each technology, they help to answer the questions: What problems does it solve? What technical need will it meet? They then help to define a value proposition and pathway to break into the chosen markets.

At the end of this process, developers go through a ‘gateway’ assessment, which sees the most commercially viable concepts progress to the final stage of the programme. Those who don’t continue with the programme will have still benefitted from a grant of up to £40,000 and meaningful external feedback about commercial realities – allowing companies to significantly reduce their commercial risks.

A roadmap to real-world success

The final stage will see you move from conceptual design to, at a minimum, a fully proven concept. You might even be ready to work towards initial volume production, market validation and – ultimately – commercial sales.

For this critical step, TDAP participants work with a low carbon engineering product development company which helps small and emerging enterprises become industry ready, keeping a sharp focus on what it takes to deliver in the real world. By plotting out initial aspects of manufacturing, supply chain, compliance and engineering support, the experts ensure that developers exit the programme with a comprehensive roadmap for manufacturing their product.

Taking the next step

Now entering its sixth wave of funding, TDAP has helped many companies begin their journey to net-zero success and start to make a real difference on our path to a greener future. Just last month, Dudley South MP, Mike Wood, held up Westfield Sportscars as an exemplar of a local business anchoring automotive manufacturing in the UK. The company is a current participant on TDAP Wave 5, highlighting the productivity and prosperity that can be unlocked by zero-carbon innovators across the UK with a modest grant and intensive, targeted support.

Wherever you’re based, we invite you to reap those benefits through TDAP Wave 6, which is now open for applications until 2 February 2022. You’ll need to submit an expression of interest (EoI) to access the final application form, maximise your time for this and your chance of success, we strongly suggest you submit your EOI as soon as possible.