Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund: for research and innovation

A fund to strengthen UK science and business innovation and take on the biggest challenges that society and industries face today.

What is the fund?

The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund aims to bring together the UK’s world-leading research with business to meet the major industrial and societal challenges of our time. This is part of government’s £4.7 billion investment in R&D over 4 years.

By investing in and supporting UK businesses and researchers, the fund will ensure that research and innovation takes centre-stage in government’s Industrial Strategy.

It is delivered by UK Research and Innovation.

The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund

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Information about further challenges, engagement activities and how to access funding will be published here or you can sign up for new announcements.

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The challenges

Government has worked with businesses and academics to identify the core industrial challenges where:

  • the UK has a world-leading research base and businesses ready to innovate
  • there is a large or fast-growing and sustainable global market

Challenges are aligned with the Industrial Strategy’s 4 grand challenges.

Audience of the future

How we experience the world is changing – from our entertainment and art, to how we shop and learn – thanks to immersive technologies such as virtual, augmented and mixed reality. It is a trend we can expect to continue over the next 20 years.

The challenge we have is to bring the UK’s creative businesses, researchers and technologists together so that we can create the next generation of highly-immersive, striking experiences.

This fund will develop, demonstrate and support the adoption of new products and services that will capture the public’s imagination and strengthen the UK’s position as a world-leader in creative content. The investment is up to £33 million.

ISCF Wave 2 - Audiences of the future

Faraday battery challenge

With the government clean growth strategy committing to end the sale of conventional petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2040, there’s a growing demand for fully electric and zero emission vehicles. The market is estimated to be worth £5 billion in the UK and £50 billion across Europe by 2025.

For these next-generation vehicles, we need batteries that are more cost-effective, durable and safe, of lower weight and higher performance. They should also be recyclable.

This challenge will support the design, development and manufacture of batteries. The £246 million investment will support research and innovation projects and new facilities that scale-up and advance production, use and recycling.

As well as battery development for the automotive sector, this challenge will have crossover for other applications and opportunities presented by the low carbon, electrified economy.

The Faraday Challenge – part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund

From data to early diagnosis and precision medicine

There are diseases and conditions that take years to present symptoms - but identifying them early is usually the best way to contain them. They can be mitigated, managed and have a less serious impact on a patient’s quality of life.

An improved understanding of a disease and its characteristics could support earlier diagnosis, and enable the best treatment for the individual patient to be selected first time.

The challenge will combine the UK’s research data with real-world evidence from our health service to create new products and services for improved treatment. Up to £210 million will be made available to industry and research.

ISCF Wave 2 From data to early diagnosis and precision medicine

Healthy ageing

Our population is ageing. By 2040, one in 7 people in the UK will be aged over 75 – an increase from one in 12 today – while a third of children born now are expected to live to 100-years-old.

So that people can stay active, productive and independent for longer, this challenge will invest in research and innovation to support the aspirations of people as they age and provide better, more effective care when it is needed.

This up to £98 million fund will help people to live independently in their homes, tackle loneliness, increase independence and wellbeing.

ISCF Wave 2 Healthy Ageing

Leading-edge healthcare

Life sciences manufacturing is a huge market for the UK. It delivers almost 9% of our manufacturing GVA, 80% of which is for pharmaceuticals - but there has been a decline in exports and productivity in recent years.

To make the most of the opportunity and address the challenge of getting the right drugs and treatments to individual patients, this £181 million fund will improve how we develop and manufacture medicines and other healthcare products, such as digital technologies.

New facilities and capabilities in areas such as advanced therapies, medicines and vaccines development will speed up the development of vital treatments and patient access.

The Accelerating Innovative Medicines Challenge - part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund

Next-generation services

Services account for almost 80% of the UK economy, with financial and professional services alone employing around 2.2 million and valued at £190 billion.

As technologies such as artificial intelligence and data analytics become ever more ubiquitous, we need to prime the UK services sector to take advantage. These can help create a more efficient, productive and competitive sector, and significantly improve the services that are provided to customers and clients.

The up to £20 million ‘pioneer’ fund will invest in businesses and researchers to develop the next-generation of services to transform industries such as accountancy, insurance and legal services in the UK, and lead the world.

ISCF Wave 2 - Next-generation services

Prospering from the energy revolution

The smart energy market is growing, with an estimated $2 trillion set to be invested globally in energy infrastructure every year.

Smart energy systems can significantly improve efficiency by intelligently linking energy supply, storage and use, as well as heating and transport. For consumers, they will support cleaner and cheaper energy.

This challenge will invest £102.5 million in new local energy systems and approaches. It will help to meet government’s targets for air quality and to comply with the carbon budget, while creating high-value jobs in the sector.

Quantum technologies

Quantum technologies and emerging quantum-enabled devices promise to transform industries including automotive, cyber security, defence, healthcare, infrastructure and telecommunications.

In the UK, our focus is very much on the end users of these potential devices and how we can make the most of the opportunity: to build on the research and development through the established UK National Quantum Technology Programme.

This challenge has up to £20 million of pioneer funding. It will engage researchers, to translate quantum science into quantum engineering, and manufacturers, who can use this work to develop new quantum-enabled devices and products.

ISCF Wave 2 - Quantum Technology

Robots for a safer world

Advances in robotics and artificial intelligence systems could support safer work for people in industries such as nuclear, offshore energy, deep mining and space.

This challenge aims to take people out of extreme environments and make unmanned operations the standard approach. At the individual level, it will create safer, leaner work and improve quality of life. For the UK it has the potential to grow productivity, boost resilience and improve our public services and infrastructure.

Up to £93 million will go to businesses and researchers to de-risk research and innovation in advanced robotics and unlock the global market, which is estimated to be worth between $1.7 and $4.5 trillion by 2025.

Robots for a Safer World Challenge – part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund

Transforming construction

The way we create our buildings has hardly changed in 40 years. It’s in need of a drastic overhaul if it is to achieve the same increases in productivity as other industries and the targets of the UK’s national infrastructure programme, which is calling for £650 billion worth of projects by 2025.

We need to transform the sector to build affordable places to live and work that are safer, healthier and more energy efficient.

Through this challenge, we will create new processes and techniques, including the standardisation of modular components for manufacture. Doing so will support the industry to construct buildings 50% faster, 33% cheaper and with half of the lifetime carbon emissions.

ISCF Wave 2 Transforming construction

Transforming food production

Estimates put that 60% more food will be needed worldwide by 2050. To feed an increasing global population, we need to produce more resilient, sustainable food, more efficiently, reduce emissions and pollution, minimise waste and improve soil.

In the UK we are already home to research and industries that are leading understanding of crops, livestock and environmental management, as well as earth observation, sensors, big data, artificial intelligence and robotics.

Now we need to build on these strengths with new developments in precision agriculture. The up to £90 million investment will meet this challenge and support high-value jobs, growth and export opportunities.

Transforming food production - part of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund

Creative industries clusters

Creative industries - including film, music, video games and architecture - are among the largest, fastest-growing, and most exciting in the UK. They employ over 2 million people and contribute almost £90 billion to the economy. We need to catalyse on what we have, and respond and adapt to emerging technologies to remain on top.

In this challenge, researchers and businesses from across the arts and humanities will come together to define, design and develop new creative products and services.

We will invest up to £39 million - doubling with match funding from universities and industry - to establish partnerships that capitalise on commercial opportunities, create highly-skilled jobs and help the UK to lead the global creative economy.

  1. Creative Industries Sector Deal launched

Driverless cars

The driverless car sector is predicted to be worth £63 billion by 2035 - and we want the UK to lead the way.

Working with industry partners, in this challenge we will fund collaborative research and development programmes to develop AI and control systems for driverless cars. Funding of £38 million has been announced to date.

Manufacturing and future materials

With industries such as aerospace, automotive and others involved in advanced manufacturing calling for more affordable, light-weight composite materials, this creates a big market opportunity for those who are able to take advantage: civil aerospace employs over 230,000 people in the UK alone.

In this challenge we will fund research and development programmes to develop the next-generation of materials. £26 million of funding has been announced so far.

National Satellite Test Facility

An estimated 3,500 to 10,000 satellites are due to launch by 2025, presenting a huge opportunity to the UK if we can develop the world-class facilities and capabilities to support it.

A £99 million National Satellite Test Facility will be established through this challenge. This will provide a set of co-located facilities at the Harwell Campus, Oxfordshire to develop next-generation launch technologies and testing capabilities.

The facility will enable us to assemble and test satellites and deliver payloads into orbit, including bigger, more technologically-advanced satellites.

It will strengthen the UK as a world-leader in satellites and give a competitive advantage to bid for more national and international contracts.

Other announcements and blogs about the fund

Published 8 May 2017
Last updated 20 November 2018 + show all updates
  1. Added link to the Budget 2018 documents, which referenced additional investment in the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund including 'made smarter' for manufacturing, support for innovation in electric motors and making vehicles lighter and more efficient, and further development and commercialisation of quantum technologies.
  2. Added video that offers an overview of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, the investment and how it aims to transform existing industries and creating new ones.
  3. Added video to transforming construction challenge with an overview of the opportunity.
  4. Updated each of the challenge areas with the latest on these programmes, including funding information where this information has been announced. Added a new challenge to the list - the creative industries clusters - which, through partnerships, aims to define, design and develop novel products and services for the UK's creative industries.
  5. Updated the next-generation services challenge to include links to new announcements of funding and a short video that outlines the opportunities.
  6. Updated 2 challenges - audiences of the future and quantum technologies - to include links to new announcements of funding. Added short videos for both challenges that outline the opportunities.
  7. Updated 2 challenges, from data to early diagnosis and precision medicine and healthy ageing to include links to the latest announcements of funding. Added short videos for both challenge areas outlining the opportunities.
  8. Added explanation and link where industry-led consortia can submit their ideas for the third wave of challenges to be funded.
  9. Updated food production challenge to include links to latest announcement of funding of £90 million. Added a video outlining the challenge opportunity.
  10. Added 3 videos of funded projects under the leading-edge healthcare challenge, with Neurofenix, FundamentalVR and MeiraGTx. Added video about the battery facility being created under Faraday battery challenge.
  11. Updated page to create collection sections for each of the challenge areas and added more detail, including new videos for Faraday Battery Challenge and robotics and AI in extreme environments. Added 8 new challenges for the Industrial Strategy white paper: 'Data to early diagnosis and precision medicine', 'Healthy ageing', 'Transforming construction', 'Prospering from the energy revolution', 'Transforming food production: from farm to fork', 'Next generation services', 'Audiences of the future' and 'Quantum technology'.
  12. Updated latest competitions. Added section and news story for funded projects.
  13. Updated latest competitions.
  14. Updated latest competitions.
  15. Updated latest competitions.
  16. Updated latest competitions.
  17. Updated latest news and competitions.
  18. Updated news stories.
  19. Updated latest competitions.
  20. Clarified the core industrial challenges as identified by government, businesses and academics.
  21. First published.