£16 million offered for sustainable plastic packaging design solutions

Innovate UK is looking for “bold and ambitious” projects that tackle the sustainability challenges related to plastic packaging.

Innovate UK has launched a funding competition worth £16 million to support and develop sustainable and smart plastic packaging solutions.

According to WRAP, around 40 per cent of all plastic is used for packaging. While the material plays an important role in protecting goods and extending the shelf life of products, the UK generates some 2.4 million tonnes of packaging waste a year.

Innovate UK’s newest funding competition seeks to tackle these issues, by supporting “business-led projects” which demonstrate environmental benefits for humans, wildlife and the wider environment.

Projects must support UK Plastics Pact

Four requirements have been set out in the competition brief, which state projects must: improve the sustainability of the plastic supply chain, help deliver the targets of the UK Plastics Pact, utilise innovation in design and technology, and embed a whole-systems approach which considers environmental, economic and social factors.

Those looking to enter into the funding competition must be able to quantify the benefits of their new approach in comparison to the system they intend to replace or improve.

Entrants will need to explain how they are innovating to address at least one of the UK Plastics Pact targets. The list of four targets includes the complete elimination of single-use plastic packaging by 2025, and for 100 per cent of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable.

Particular interest for service and product design

There are several areas of the competition brief that designers, particularly those involved in service or product design, might want to pay attention too.

Innovate UK says the competition is particularly interested in projects relating to refillable packaging and systems and sustainable solutions relating to film and flexible packaging. Additionally, innovations that encourage behavioural changes among consumers are also welcomed.

Such ideas have already been a sharp focus for UK designers. Last summer, drinks manufacturing giant Diageo unveiled the “world’s first” paper-based spirits bottle, while a new crop of designers unveiled a selection of bio-materials to replace plastic in October 2020.

Last year, Design Week also spoke to practitioners who were among the growing number finding dissolvable material solutions for plastic packaging.

Innovate UK expects to fund three solutions

Entrants should be aware that Innovate UK has also compiled a list of projects it will not fund. These include the development of materials that cannot be recycled in the UK, or projects that will produce any kind of fuel or energy from plastic waste. The full list can be found in the competition brief.

Those interested in applying for the grant will need to be a UK registered business, and must collaborate on a project with another UK registered academic institution, charity, non-profit or public sector organisation.

The aim for the competition is to fund large-scale projects. Interested parties will need to request a grant of no less than £1 million, and no more than £12 million. Innovate UK says it expects to fund up to three practical solutions in this way.

For more information, head to the competition brief here.

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