First tranche of challenges supported by the Industrial Strategy challenge fund (ISCF) has been welcomed by research and innovation leaders.
The spring budget announced an initial investment of £270 million in 2017 to 2018. This is to kick-start the development of disruptive technologies that have the potential to transform the UK economy.
First challenges announced
Following engagement with experts in academia and industry, the budget announced the first wave of challenges funded through the ISCF, part of the Industrial Strategy. These include:
- leading the world in the development, design and manufacture of batteries that will power the next generation of electric vehicles, helping to tackle air pollution
- developing cutting-edge artificial intelligence and robotics systems that will operate in extreme and hazardous environments, including off-shore energy, nuclear energy, space and deep mining
- accelerating patient access to new drugs and treatments through developing brand new medicine manufacturing technologies, helping to improve public health
Investing in skills
The budget also announced plans to build the pipeline of high-skilled research talent necessary for a growing and innovative economy. There will be an investment of £250 million over the next 4 years including:
- £90 million to provide an additional 1,000 PhD places in areas aligned with the Industrial Strategy. Around 85% will be in STEM disciplines, and 40% will directly help strengthen collaboration between business and academia through industrial partnerships
- £160 million to support new fellowships for early and mid-career researchers in areas aligned to the Industrial Strategy
Research and innovation leaders respond
Dr Ruth McKernan, Chief Executive of Innovate UK, said:
The Chancellor’s announcement today is a great example of how the Industrial Strategy challenge fund will deliver the science that business needs.
The first 3 challenge areas are developing revolutionising battery technology, getting innovative medicines to patients more quickly and developing robots for use in hazardous environments. The UK has scientific expertise in these areas. We have excellent companies ready and willing to translate the technology into business growth across the UK.
The challenge fund is like nothing we have seen before, and it has enormous potential to deliver. These challenges announced today are just the start. Innovate UK and the research councils are already working together, building on the evidence we’ve gathered from organisations across the country to look at how we can get the UK’s researchers and businesses working together and firing on all cylinders.
Professor Philip Nelson, Chair of Research Councils UK, said:
The Chancellor’s announcements are most welcome. Long-term funding for research and developing high-skilled research talent is vital to the UK’s future as a science power, continuing to feed the pipeline that transforms research into products and services. The UK is at the fore in many aspects of these fields, but countries across the globe are putting effort and resource in too, so these investments are strategically significant.