International Supply Chain Accelerator: Seamless Trade Across Borders

Utilising advanced digital technology to digitise existing import and export processes to achieve seamless trade across the borders


The International Supply Chain Accelerator is part of the Made Smarter Innovation | Digital Supply Chain Hub programme. This project is aiming to support UK technology innovators and startups to identify and address operational inefficiencies in current trade processes. Leonardo UK and BAE Systems have set out the industry challenges with BT Group as a technology sponsor and ICC as an industry body emphasising the significant potential for optimisation and improvement of import and export processes used in cross-border trade.

The UK ecosystem of technology innovators will be invited to apply to the programme and will be at the forefront of digital transformation. Digital Catapult, as delivery partner, will facilitate and guide the partnerships between the industry challenge owners, technology sponsor and the tech innovators, providing funding of up to £85,000 to address some of the UK’s most pressing supply chain challenges.

Challenge briefs

We invite innovators and start ups to apply to one of the following challenges:

  • Challenge area 1: Standardisation and sharing of high quality data by all participants in the supply chain

    Aim: to establish a standardised and consistent supply chain data ecosystem, ensuring interoperability and harmonisation, while delivering high-quality, real-time data and ensuring due diligence, accuracy, accessibility, and telemetry.

    • Consolidating internal supply chain data from within the organisation.
    • Validating the data for certain qualities such as: standardised, interoperable, real-time, due-diligence based, accurate, accessible and accompanied by telemetry.
    • Generating applicable electronic trade documents as necessary (considering the provisions of the ETDA bill).

    Expected outcomes:

    • Standardisation of data and artefacts involved in the export / import processes, to enhance interoperability and harmonisation of processes.
    • Generation and sharing of high quality data with qualities such as real-time, rich, due-diligence based, accurate, accessible and accompanied by telemetry.
    • Avoid single points of failure and guarantee integrity of data at all times.




  • Challenge area 2: Enhanced transparency and visibility of the export and import process steps in the supply chain

    Aim: to enhance visibility and transparency throughout the Export/Import processes by seamlessly gathering data from diverse systems within BAE Systems and Leonardo UK.

    • Gathering data from the various systems in BAE Systems and Leonardo UK to give visibility to the process.
    • Transmission of the pertinent ‘signals’ and notifications upon the completion of process steps. This includes furnishing relevant and tailored data from the respective process step, along with any electronic trade documents that may be necessary.

    Expected outcomes:

    • Visibility, transparency and predictability of process (progress and details of consignments).
    • Proactive and optimised updates by way of notifications to appropriate participants involved in the export / import process (buyer, seller, transport intermediary) and linking it with the financial payments infrastructure.
    • Efficient operation of the export / import management system based on community principles guaranteeing fairness.

How to apply and next steps

  1. Applicants must apply via the application form. 
  2. As part of the application, you will be asked to demonstrate that you meet the programme requirements for the challenge open call.
  3. Once you start your application you will have until 23:59 BST on Friday 14th of June 2024 to submit your application. Once submitted you will not be able to make any edits.
  4. If you wish to apply for more than one challenge area with the same technology solution, please make this clear in your application. If an organisation wishes to apply with more than one technology solution, please submit an additional application form per solution.

Should you require any assistance with the application you can reach out to to explore the suitability of your idea for the challenges. You can also join us for Circle discussions and collaborate with industry experts by signing up today and asking in the Digital Supply Chain Hub.

Roles & responsibilities

The role of the solution provider, industry challenge owner, technology sponsor and industry body

Solution provider

Solution providers will receive grant funding of £85k and support  to develop a solution addressing one of the supply chain challenges set up by the industry challenge owners.

Industry challenge owner (Leonardo UK and BAE Systems)

Industry challenge owners are large industry players with a global impact and strong reliance on supply chains. They set up and define a supply chain related challenge that they are currently facing and guide the solution development process.

Technology sponsor (BT Group)

Technology sponsor brings industry expertise and experience to support the development of the solutions and potentially gives access to their existing capabilities and infrastructure for solution providers to experiment with.

Industry body (International Chamber of Commerce)

Industry body is overseeing the solutions development process, providing guidance, expertise and introductions to their networks to ensure that solutions that are being developed during the programme are aligned with the industry priorities and regulations.

Who’s involved

Leonardo UK

Leonardo UK is one of the UK’s leading aerospace companies. They are also a supplier of defence and security equipment to the UK MOD. Leonardo operates from multiple sites across the UK and is an important contributor to the UK’s economy.

BAE Systems

BAE Systems provides some of the world’s most advanced, technology-led defence, aerospace and security solutions. Working with customers and local partners, BAE Systems develops, engineers, manufactures, and supports products and systems to deliver military capability, protect national security, and keep critical information and infrastructure secure.

BT Group

BT Group is a British multinational telecommunications holding company headquartered in London, England. It has operations in around 180 countries and is the largest provider of fixed-line, broadband and mobile services in the UK, and also provides subscription television and IT services. BT Group is the operator of CCS-UK which is the UK’s electronic air cargo community: digitally connecting airlines, freight forwarders, ground handlers, hauliers, HM revenue and customs and border force, to facilitate the sharing of information that’s essential to the efficient movement of the UK’s vitally important air exports and imports.

International Chamber of Commerce

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) is one of the world’s largest and most influential business organisations, representing companies from all sectors and regions. Established in 1919, its primary mission is to promote international trade and investment, facilitate cross-border business transactions, and advocate for policies that foster economic growth and development.

Why should you get involved?

Participants on the programme will receive the following benefits:

MVP funding

Up to £85,000 in grant funding to develop a challenge focused minimum viable product (MVP) and supporting material within the timeframe of the project. 

Technical support

Collaborate with technology and subject matter experts from Digital Catapult, industrial bodies representatives, industry challenge owners and tech sponsors who will support the development of the participants’ solutions/MVPs.

Digital supply chain hub

Upon successful completion of the project, the participant will have the opportunity to join the future digital supply chain hub and connect with the wider supply chain ecosystem and build further collaboration opportunities.


Opportunity to participate in the programme networking events, roundtables and introductions to industry leaders, investors and potential customers.

Pitch training

One-to-one pitching sessions with a coach to support each company to practise, build the narrative and script for the final showcase event.

Showcase event

Be part of the programme showcase event in March 2025 to present your solution in front of investors and supply chain industry stakeholders.

Assessment Criteria

Strength and Originality of the Solution 25%

The applicant should demonstrate that their solution is realistic, well-developed and adds value to the ICO in the context of the chosen challenge. Applicants should show a good understanding of the problem highlighting the relevance of the solution to the digital trade / digital borders industry. The solution should also demonstrate how it achieves the outcomes pertaining to the challenge. The solution should also be shown to leverage advanced digital technologies where applicable and also is reasonably achievable in practical terms. The solution should be estimable in the Technology Readiness Level of  4-5.

Team Experience 25%

The team demonstrates that they are equipped with the appropriate technology and business skills, and show strong evidence that they can develop and deliver the proposed solution within the timeframe and budget/funding of the programme.

Technical Feasibility 25%

The proposed solution is at the TRL 4-5 level, with potential for progression to TRL 6-7 at the end of the programme. The technical delivery of the proposal is feasible and provides a clear added value to the ICO. All evidence is outlined in a well thought through Product Development Roadmap.

Growth Potential 25%

The solution demonstrates the potential for scalability, beyond the lifecycle of the programme.The idea is likely to be suitable for further funding stages of development and commercial agreements.

Programme requirements

Terms and conditions

Frequently asked questions

  • What counts as co-investment for this project?

    How co-investment works: we are providing programme participants with the £85,000 worth of funding and they need to demonstrate that solution they are developing will be worth (cost) £85Kx2=£170K. (50:50 split). That value could come from various sources such as resources, materials, licenses, as illustrated in the picture below.

    What co-investment are we looking for?

    Co-investment from industry and technology partners is a requirement of the funding

    There are various categories of co-investment which can be considered:

  • What are the key dates of the programme?
    • Open Call – Applications Open – Wednesday 8th of May
    • Open Call – Application Deadline – Friday 14th of June
    • Judging – Phase 1: Assessment – week commencing 17th of June
    • Judging – Phase 2: Interviews  – week commencing 8th of July
    • Intended notification of all Applicants – week commencing 22nd of July
    • Intended public announcement of successful Participants – w/c 5th of August
    • Programme – Start Date: September 2024
    • Programme – End Date: March 2025 

    Note: Dates and activities can be subject to change. Digital Catapult will endeavour to provide as much notice as possible to applicants/participants should any changes arise.

  • How will I receive the funding through the International Supply Chain Accelerator?

    Funding will be awarded in pounds sterling (GBP) into a UK business bank account associated with the entrant organisation. 

    Each company is funded with £85,000 to develop solutions that address the Industry Challenge Owners challenges. 

    The funding will be allocated to each successful onboarded applicant based on the conditions outlined in the Programme T&Cs.

    Participants shall receive the grant as Minimal Financial Assistance (“MFA”), or to the extent applicable under the Northern Ireland Protocol, the de minimis aid regulations (COMMISSION REGULATION (EU) No 1407/2013), collectively referred to herein as “State Assistance.

    The total State Assistance received or due to be received by an individual Participant (including any associated companies e.g. subsidiaries), originating from a United Kingdom source, must not exceed £315,000, or €200,000 (approximately £165,000) for Northern Ireland Companies (or any other company subject to the Northern Ireland Protocol), each in aggregate across the Participant’s current fiscal year (as at the Agreement Date) and the previous two fiscal years.

  • Can I receive preliminary feedback on my application before submission and if unsuccessful?

    Unfortunately not, to ensure a fair judging process and due to the high volume of applications we expect to receive, we are not able to work with you or feedback on applications prior to completion. Please refer to our selection criteria to understand what we expect to see from applications.

    If your application is not successful for the programme, we cannot provide feedback to all our applicants, but we will let you know the outcome either way.

    If you have taken part in the interview phase but your application is unsuccessful then yes. The companies which do not qualify for the prototype development but went through the interview selection process will receive relevant feedback from Digital Catapult on the scoring and technical requirements.

  • Will International Supply Chain Accelerator take any equity in the startups?

    No. International Supply Chain Accelerator is equity-free and there are no fees associated with participation.

  • Does my organisation need to be UK based or can I collaborate with international contributors?

    Collaborations may include international contributors, but to complete the programme (i) the team must have an establishment in the UK, and (ii) the majority of work should be carried out in the UK and teams need to be able to commit to attending the workshops, kick-off event and final showcase.

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

    Participating or having participated in accelerator or other technology adoption support programmes does not exclude you from taking part in the International Supply Chain Accelerator, as long as the timings do not cause a conflict of interest and you are eligible to receive the state aid as outlined in the T&Cs.

    If you have been part of any previous Digital Catapult programme you are welcome to join. For other programmes, your participation will be dependent on the terms of the programme itself and what you have agreed to in the terms and conditions.

  • What level of technical maturity are we looking for?

    Startups and SMEs should have an early-stage solution at the TRL 4-5 and be able to progress to the TRL 6-7 within the timeline of the programme.

    A key objective of the International Supply Chain Accelerator is to support innovators to progress through this TRL framework, as well as prepare the programme cohort to further scale their solutions beyond the Challenge, for example by providing a pathway to working directly with industry challenge owners or getting investment ready after the programme.  

  • Who can apply?

    The International Supply Chain Accelerator Open Call 1 – seamless trade across the borders is welcoming applications from startups and innovators within the supply chain industry that are developing digital technology solutions that address international supply chain challenges set by BAE Systems and Leonardo UK.

    It is intended that the solutions of the tech innovators would leverage the cutting edge technology available in the industry. These technology areas are (including but not limited to): artificial intelligence; distributed ledger technology; advanced (distributed) identity solutions. 

    Startups and SMEs should have an early-stage solution at the TRL 4-5 and be able to progress to the TRL 6-7 within the timeline of the programme.

    Key sectors that we are targeting include: transportation, aerospace & defence, logistics (maritime, airways, rail sectors)

  • At what stage will the solution be agreed upon with the industry challenge owner?

    Within your application form, you will submit a concept / proposed solution to the challenge. This is the application form that will be used to select the ideas that progress and join the programme. Applications will be judged and selected by a team of technology and industry experts from across Digital Catapult and the industry challenge owners. If selected, once on the programme you will be able to work with your sponsored industry challenge owner to further understand the problem and develop your solution.

Chat with the International Supply Chain Accelerator team

If you haven’t found an answer to your question, please contact or book a 15-minute slot with the project team. You can also join us for Circle discussions and collaborate with industry experts by signing up today and asking in the Digital Supply Chain Hub.

Get involved with our current opportunities

Digital Supply Chain Innovation Funding Opportunity

This open call looks to develop solutions to issues that have arisen in three critical areas; data governance, reporting and verification of emissions across the food supply chain, and cybersecurity vulnerability. Applications are invited from companies interested in working with programme collaboration partners from the Digital Supply Chain Hub ecosystem.