Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund opportunities begin to open

23 June 2017

The research councils and Innovate UK welcome the initial key areas of the government's flagship Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) that have now opened to businesses and researchers to apply for funding.

The six investment areas unveiled in the Budget of April 2017 are:

  • The 'Faraday Challenge' to develop and manufacture batteries for the electrification of vehicles - £246 million over four years to help UK businesses seize the opportunities presented by the move to a low carbon economy - the challenge will be split into three elements, research, innovation, and scale up.
  • Developing robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) systems that can be deployed in extreme environments, for instance off-shore energy, nuclear energy, space and deep mining - £93 million over four years to make industry and public services more productive.
  • Developing first-of-a-kind technologies for the manufacture of medicines that will speed up patient access to new drugs and treatments - £197 million over four years to build on the exporting strengths of the UK's biopharmaceutical sector.
  • Developing the next generation of AI and control systems to keep the UK at the forefront of the driverless cars revolution - £38 million for new collaborative research and development projects with industry partners.
  • Developing manufacture of the next generation of affordable light-weight composite materials for aerospace, automotive and other advanced manufacturing sectors - £26 million fund for research and development programmes.
  • A satellite test facility - £99 million to support new launch technologies and the manufacturing and testing capabilities for the UK to construct future satellites and deliver payloads into orbit.

The ISCF is a strategic element of the government's industrial strategy that aims to ensure the UK continues to be one of the best places in the world for science and innovation. Innovate UK and the research councils are taking a leading role in delivering this funding, operating across the country, to ensure the UK secures maximum benefit from science and innovation.

Professor Philip Nelson, Chair of the Research Councils and EPSRC Chief Executive, said:

The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund will target areas that are crucial to the economic and societal future of the UK. It will help research and innovation to thrive and open up new possibilities for the country. We can lead the world in developing science that underpins new technologies and their applications. The research councils and Innovate UK will be working closely to bring about advances in all the first six areas.

Ruth McKernan, Chief Executive of Innovate UK, said:

There is huge interest from business in the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund because of its bold ambitions to break new ground for research and innovation in the UK. I am therefore delighted that our first competitions for businesses are launched this week for the development of robotics and artificial intelligence systems that can be deployed in extreme environments.

In robotics and artificial intelligence systems, Innovate UK, the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and NERC are collaborating on an integrated programme investigating the development and deployment of robotics and artificial intelligence (RAI) systems in extreme environments.

The programme aims to develop robotic solutions to make a safer working environment in industries such as off-shore energy, nuclear energy, space and deep mining, increase productivity and open up new cross disciplinary opportunities, not currently available.

EPSRC will lead on a £42 million call for use-inspired research hubs with specific partnership resource, to drive and accelerate translation of fundamental science in robotics and AI systems.

Innovate UK will lead on two new funding competitions - external link which have now opened:

  • Innovation funding competition to support collaborative research and development with co-investment from industry (£10 million).
  • Demonstrator programme to allow companies to test these systems in world-class facilities across the UK (up to £6 million). This is the first phase of the Demonstrator programme, for projects focusing on technical feasibility studies of individual technologies, systems or subsystems for off-shore energy, nuclear energy, space and deep mining applications.

NERC is investing £16 million in marine autonomous systems, maintaining the UK's world-class status in this field. NERC has awarded £4·3 million of this funding to develop new sensors capable of working in the ocean's extreme conditions.

Further information

Mary Goodchild
NERC News & Media Officer
01793 411939

EPSRC Press Office
01793 444404

James Easey
Innovate UK
07947 467162


1. The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) builds on the UK's world-class research base and delivers the science that business needs to transform existing industries and create new ones. It accelerates commercial exploitation of the most exciting technologies the UK has to offer the world to ensure that scientific investment truly delivers economic impact, jobs and growth right across the country. The ISCF is delivered by Innovate UK and Research Councils UK (RCUK), and eventually UK Research & Innovation (UKRI), the single voice for the UK's research and innovation landscape.