What is the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund?
UK government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund aims to bring together our world-leading research base with Britain’s best businesses to transform how we live, work and move around.
By investing in the very best research, development and innovation, it will tackle the major industrial and societal challenges we face today and put the UK in the best position to take advantage of future market opportunities.
The fund is delivered by UK Research and Innovation.
It is part of government’s £4.7 billion investment in R&D over 4 years that will support the delivery of its modern Industrial Strategy.
Wave 3 selection process
There’s been a hive of activity making our way through the process to select the final shortlist of challenges for the third wave.
Announcements began last October with the Budget and have continued right through to January 2019 - announcing the names of the challenges we are taking forward to the final approval stage.
ISCF wave 3 challenges
Those announcements took a number of forms, so we thought it would be helpful to bring all of that information together in one place and set out the next steps.
In alphabetical order, the challenge areas are:
Accelerating detection of disease
Announced as part of the Life Sciences sector deal, this challenge will build a study of c.100,000 healthy people in its first four years to develop new diagnostic tests using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. The programme will then grow to include more than 1 million people through further funding arrangements and will be the first of its kind in a national health programme.
- Subject to business case and match funding from industry, government is prepared to invest up to £79 million in this challenge
Commercialising quantum technologies
Announced at Budget 2018, this challenge will use the UK’s global strength in quantum technologies to radically transform computing, sensing and communications. This new technology promises to provide secure connectivity, safe autonomous mobility and address currently intractable data analysis opportunities.
- Subject to business case and match funding from industry, government has announced that it is prepared to invest up to £70 million in this challenge
Digital security by design
Announced by the Business Secretary on Data Privacy Day, this challenge will radically update our insecure digital computing infrastructure by developing and applying hardware innovation. It will boost productivity and halve cybersecurity costs to businesses, and mean that connected and autonomous vehicles, IoT and other digital services are intrinsically safe.
- Subject to business case and match funding from industry, government is prepared to invest up to £70 million in this challenge
Driving the electric revolution
Also announced at Budget 2018, this challenge will allow the UK to seize the economic opportunities from the global transition to clean technologies and electrification. The programme will help businesses across seven different sectors to invest and work together to capitalise on the UK’s strengths in this technology.
- Subject to business case and match funding from industry, government has announced that it is prepared to invest up to £78 million in this challenge
Future flight - Announced as part of Industrial Strategy One Year On events, this challenge will show how innovative flight solutions, such as electric planes with vertical take-off capability, goods and service drones will radically transform how we fly by 2023. It will also make sure we are able to manage this newly congested airspace safely and reduce its environmental impact.
- Subject to business case and match funding from industry, government has announced that it is prepared to invest up to £125 million in this challenge
Announced at COP24 climate talks, this challenge will develop and deploy low carbon technologies and enabling infrastructure in one or more heavily industrialised areas and aims to create at least one low carbon cluster by 2030.
- Subject to business case and match funding from industry, government is prepared to invest up to £170 million in this challenge
Manufacturing made smarter
Another announcement from Budget 2018, this challenge will make the UK a global leader in industrial digitalisation, delivering a 30% increase in manufacturing productivity by 2030. The challenge aligns with the vision of the Juergen Maier led Made Smarter review and has significant cross-sector support.
- Subject to business case and match funding from industry, government has announced that it is prepared to invest up to £121 million in this challenge
Smart sustainable plastic packaging
Announced on 5 December, this challenge will develop a new generation of advanced and sustainable plastic packaging to reduce single-use plastics, increase recyclability and the amount of plastic packaging that is recycled and ultimately reduce the amount of plastic waste entering the environment. The challenge will develop new forms of plastic and consumer-friendly packaging formats that can contain more recycled material and are easier to recycle and find new ways of recycling plastic packaging that is currently wasted or ends up in the environment.
- Subject to business case and match funding from industry, government is prepared to invest up to £60 million in this challenge
Transforming foundation industries challenge
Also announced at the COP24 climate talks in Poland, this challenge will transform the UK’s foundation industries (glass, metals, cement, ceramics, chemicals) to make them internationally competitive, securing more jobs and greater sector growth by 2025. The challenge will create a network world-class pilot facility to demonstrate new and radical technologies. Subject to business case and match funding from industry, government is prepared to invest up to £66 million in this challenge.
All of these challenges, you will notice, have up to funding figures and the same caveat regarding business case approval and industry co-funding. That is the job that is now underway and we hope that it will be completed by Spring 2019.
Working together to refine the vision
That final approval stage will see us working with industry and partners to find co-investment alongside the money that Government is prepared to make available and to work up the detailed business case with direct input from industry. A senior industry leader for each challenge is helping us secure investment from industry and refine the vision for the challenge. The senior industry lead is supported by our UK Research & Innovation team so that we can present a joined-up case for the proposed ISCF funding.
A word of caution
I know that there has already been a great deal of excitement about the nature of the challenges, with discussions already taking place about bids for funding and other related plans. I’m thrilled to see such enthusiasm to embrace the opportunities that the ISCF presents, and that people are keen to start working together in preparation.
I would however stress that no decisions have yet been taken on any of the funding or delivery methods for any of the challenges, so would caution against any assumptions about what they may ultimately look like.
As soon as we are able to confirm the final scope and scale of the wave 3 challenges, you’ll be the first to know, so watch this space.
Search for live funding opportunities and apply.