This year will see the biggest ever UK Government intervention into advancing the sustainability of plastic packaging. The UK Government, through UK Research & Innovation (UKRI), is offering grants of its largest scale to researchers and innovators across the country.

UKRI’s Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging (SSPP) challenge programme, which falls under ISCF, is establishing the UK as a leading innovator in sustainable plastic packaging for consumer products, delivering cleaner growth across the supply chain, with the aim of dramatically reducing the amount of plastic waste entering the environment by 2025.
SSPP is investing a whopping £60 million until 2025, with the funded projects attracting of up to £149 million of co-investment from industrial partners.

The first projects, that were awarded grants by SSPP last year, are already making exciting progress including 4 large-scale commercial demonstration projects which, at £20 million of SSPP funding, represent the UK government’s biggest investment ever into advancing plastic recycling technologies. These large projects pave the way to the next stage in SSPP’s evolution – a shift from smaller, earlier stage projects towards funding bigger, more ambitious projects. SSPP is launching two new competitions across February and March that will see grants of up to £12 million awarded:

SSPP Demonstrator Round 2 (Expression of Interest stage – £16m fund) Opening on 8th February, this competition will fund large-scale commercial demonstration projects, including large-scale commercial trials of novel packaging technology or systems.

The competition is open to collaborations only. A full-submission competition (by invitation only) will follow the Expression of Interest Competition and will be open from 03 May to 14 July 2021.
Grants available from the follow-on full submission will be between £1m and £12m, subject to this competition’s rules. SSPP will allow EoI’s that request purchase of capital equipment as an eligible project cost.
You can now register to the briefing event on 9th February 2021; Summary – ISCF Smart Sustainable Plastic Packaging: Demonstrator Projects, Round 2 Competition briefing (

Business-led R&D Projects (£7m fund) Opening on 29th March 2021, this competition will fund also fund bold research and development projects, but ones not yet at large, commercial demonstration, scale. The maximum grant available will be £4m, subject to this competition’s rules.

Watch the webinar briefing about the current and upcoming competitions now:
Additional details on funding availability and associated conditions for the competitions will be available in the respective Competition Briefs closer to the Competition Opening dates. For more information on all SSPP competition, visit UK CPN:

Paul Davidson, SSPP Challenge Director, said: “We’re excited to be opening these two new competitions. SSPP has funded several great projects so far and we’re keen to fund more. We’re particularly looking for projects that can make a big impact on the 2025 UK Plastic Pact targets and that focus on much-needed solutions for packaging reduction, re-use, refill and changing consumer behaviour when it comes to plastic packaging use. These competitions help to remove a big slice of the risk inherent in ambitious R&D work and they represent a fantastic opportunity for businesses to help shape a sustainable future for plastic packaging.”

A review of the impressive range of projects SSPP has funded so far reveals work that include the use of new technology to enable single-layer plastic films to be produced that have barrier properties equivalent to the multi-layer plastic films currently used in a wide-range of single-use packaging – allowing them to be recycled rather than landfilled or incinerated.
Another project is proving it’s possible to get rid of single-use plastic packaging within the supply chain with a reusable alternative that is financially, operationally and environmentally viable.

Other projects include a collaboration working to replace polystyrene and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) in pots, tubs and tray applications whilst another company has identified a mechanical process which will allow the vast majority of post-consumer films to be suitable for recycling. Meaning a large volume of waste film which was previously sent to landfill, incinerated or lost into the environment will be recovered and could be reused in new packaging applications.

Investment in these projects has helped shape and develop thinking around some of the key challenges associated with plastic packaging. UKRI believes the focus should be at the top of the waste hierarchy – i.e. the reduction and re-use of packaging – which would represent a true shift from a linear to a circular economy solution for plastic packaging.

Sara Banning, SSPP Innovation Lead, commented: “We’ve been really encouraged by the engagement from major retailers and stakeholders. The projects have brought together collaborations from across the supply chain and academia, helping them get to grips with this potentially transformational technologies and business models and consider what the future could hold for consumers and all those involved.”

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