UKRI Challenge Fund: for research and innovation

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

What is the UKRI Challenge Fund

The UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) 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 backed by £2.6 billion of public money, with £3 billion in matched funding from the private sector.

The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund

The challenges

It’s made up of 23 challenges, covering the 4 challenge themes:

More information can be found on Innovate UK’s blog.

To find out about the latest challenge opportunities, sign up for email alerts.

Audience of the future

How we experience the world is changing. People will soon be able to become totally immersed in their favourite films, sports and entertainment.

The audience of the future challenge will support the UK’s best creatives to tell the most ground-breaking stories. Using virtual, augmented and mixed reality technologies, they will create truly immersive experiences that capture the public’s imagination.

It will invest up to £33 million to create and test new immersive experiences, improve the production of high-quality content and develop new talent.

Creative industries clusters

Creative industries - such as film, music, video games and architecture - are among the largest and fastest-growing in the UK, employing more than 2 million people and enriching the lives of the countless others that experience them.

Up to £39 million from government is being matched by funding from academia and industry to design new creative products and services, develop commercial partnerships and embed highly-skilled jobs that build for the future.

Driverless cars

Driverless car technology is advancing to make them a safe, viable option for roads. It is a growing sector predicted to be worth £63 billion by 2035.

This challenge has so far announced £38 million of funding to test and develop the AI and control systems for these vehicles.

Faraday battery challenge

More and more people are making the switch to fully electric and zero emission vehicles. As petrol and diesel cars come to be phased out this market is only going to grow - to an estimated £5 billion in the UK and £50 billion in Europe by 2025.

The £246 million Faraday battery challenge will invest in research and innovation projects and establish new facilities in battery production, use and recycling.

These batteries will be more cost-effective, durable and lightweight than ever before, with improvements to their performance, safety and sustainability.

Their use will go beyond the automotive sector, crossing over into other applications within the low carbon, electrified economy.

From data to early diagnosis and precision medicine

Identifying a disease early is usually the best way to manage and minimise its effect - but some can take years to present symptoms.

As we come to better understand the characteristics of disease, health professionals will be supported to diagnose patients earlier and select the right treatment first time.

The challenge will invest up to £210 million to combine research data and evidence from the NHS to create new and improved ways of identifying disease and treatment pathways.

Healthy ageing

Our population is ageing - with a third of children now expected to live to be 100-years-old.

The healthy ageing challenge will invest up to £98 million to help people to live active, independent and happy lives as they age.

It will allow them to stay in their homes for longer and provide more effective care options when this is needed.

Leading-edge healthcare

Medicine isn’t one size fits all. Patients with the same disease or condition can respond differently to treatment.

The £181 million challenge will develop and manufacture new medicines, vaccines, advanced therapies and other healthcare products, including digital technologies.

It will speed up the time it takes to get the right treatment to the individual, while growing life sciences manufacturing in the UK, which delivers almost 9% of our manufacturing GVA.

Manufacturing and future materials

Industries including aerospace and automotive are calling for more affordable, light-weight, composite materials for their vehicles and component parts.

This challenge - with up to £26 million funding announced to date - will invest in industry and research to develop the next generation of materials for advanced manufacturing.

National Satellite Test Facility

With up to 10,000 satellites due to be launched into orbit by 2025, there’s a market for high-performance launch technologies and testing capabilities to meet this ambition.

A £99 million investment will help to establish a National Satellite Test Facility. The facility will support the assembly and delivery of next-generation satellites, including bigger, more technologically-advanced systems.

Next-generation services

Financial and professional services - including accountancy, insurance and legal services - employ around 2.2 million in the UK to a value of £190 billion.

Through £20 million of ‘pioneer’ funding, the next-generation services challenge will develop and embed technologies including artificial intelligence and data analytics to make these more efficient and productive.

This should lead to better services for customer and clients, and a more competitive sector.

Prospering from the energy revolution

Moving to a low-carbon, more resource-efficient economy is good for the UK, and for its people - helping to improve air quality and offering cheaper, more convenient access to clean energy.

This challenge will invest £102.5 million to develop smart, clean energy systems and localised approaches that join up energy supply, storage and use with heat and transport.

It will also allow the UK to pursue global opportunities, with an estimated $2 trillion set to be invested in energy infrastructure worldwide every year.

Quantum technologies

Quantum technology is still at an early stage - but there’s potential for it to transform industries such as automotive, cyber security, defence, healthcare, infrastructure and telecommunications.

The challenge is a £20 million ‘pioneer’ fund to translate quantum science into a whole new set of products and devices, including sensors, consumer electronics and digital services, with enhanced capabilities.

Robots for a safer world

Industries such as nuclear, offshore energy, deep mining and space conduct their activities in extreme and challenging environments.

Now, with advances in robotics and artificial intelligence, there’s an opportunity to make greater use of unmanned systems - and create work for people that is safer, leaner, and improves quality of life.

The up to £93 million challenge will develop advanced robotics that remove people from potentially harmful operations and improve productivity, resilience and delivery of public services and infrastructure.

Transforming construction

The UK needs more affordable places for people to live and work that are safe, healthy and energy efficient.

To create better buildings and deliver the £650 billion worth of projects planned under the national infrastructure programme, the construction industry needs to become more productive, competitive and sustainable.

This challenge will invest £170 million - matched by £250 million from industry - to modernise construction processes and techniques, such as using digital design and standardised, modular components for offsite manufacture.

Transforming food production

The growing global population will need 60% more food by 2050 - calling for more resilient, healthier, sustainable sources and management practices.

Through an up to £90 million investment, this challenge will support new developments in precision agriculture and food production, building on UK strengths of understanding in crops, livestock and environmental sciences.

It will create more efficient, sustainable food supplies that are less vulnerable to shocks, such as disease outbreaks and extreme weather.

Other announcements about the fund

Updates to this page

Published 8 May 2017
Last updated 19 August 2019 + show all updates
  1. Added a new link to Transforming Construction news story

  2. Moved 'Self-powered buildings to transform energy use' to Transforming construction.

  3. Updated documents list for 'Leading-edge healthcare' and 'Prospering from the energy revolution' ISCF challenges.

  4. Edited descriptions for each of the challenge areas for clarity and to reflect latest programme updates. Added information about the latest challenge areas to be shortlisted, with more details to follow as these become available.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. Added video to transforming construction challenge with an overview of the opportunity.

  8. 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.

  9. Updated the next-generation services challenge to include links to new announcements of funding and a short video that outlines the opportunities.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. Added explanation and link where industry-led consortia can submit their ideas for the third wave of challenges to be funded.

  13. Updated food production challenge to include links to latest announcement of funding of £90 million. Added a video outlining the challenge opportunity.

  14. 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.

  15. 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'.

  16. Updated latest competitions. Added section and news story for funded projects.

  17. Updated latest competitions.

  18. Updated latest competitions.

  19. Updated latest competitions.

  20. Updated latest competitions.

  21. Updated latest news and competitions.

  22. Updated news stories.

  23. Updated latest competitions.

  24. Clarified the core industrial challenges as identified by government, businesses and academics.

  25. First published.