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Innovate UK

We’re shooting for the moon with the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund – join us!

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ISCF introduction, reaching for the moon

It’s always good to be excited about your work, and as David Wilkes and I noted earlier this year, the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund has certainly created a lot of excitement - about the opportunities for UK businesses and the country as a whole.

To ensure a strong and world-leading innovation nation, we need to make sure UK scientific investment delivers economic impact, creates jobs and growth, and brings together businesses, their supply chains, universities and other partners. Here at Innovate UK, and with our colleagues in the Research Councils, we’ve been in discussion with businesses and research organisations about how the challenge fund can do just that.

Enthusiasm has been building since the Spring Budget when the first tranche of challenges were announced. More details on those challenges including  the first £10 million investment in 35 projects by Innovate UK.

The challenges – and their ambitions

Electric vehicle at a charging station
Electric vehicle at a charging station

The first challenges are audacious in their ambition:

  • the Faraday Battery Challenge: will deliver cost-effective, low weight highly efficient and recyclable batteries to power the next generation of electric vehicles
  • the robots for a safer world challenge: will develop robotics and artificial intelligence for use in hazardous and challenging locations, such as in deep sea environments and nuclear reactors
  • the accelerating innovative medicines challenge: will develop first-of-a-kind technologies for the manufacture of medicines and to accelerate patient access to new drugs and treatments

Realising these ambitions will not be easy but we should not constrain our thinking simply by what we think can be done next – let’s think about the big opportunities and be positive about the UK’s potential to address them.

As Microsoft co-founder, Bill Gates said:

Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in 10 years.

So dare to dream to make a real difference.

Inspiring businesses to innovate

 Industrial engineers viewed through giant cogwheel

We know there are excellent UK businesses innovating in these areas, and we want to inspire them and others to tackle the challenges. Our path to competitiveness is not to copy what others are doing. It is to do things that others cannot do, or to do things in different and better ways. It’s in doing this that we lead the way with new innovations, advance the economy and create a better UK for all of us.

I think that this is what has led to excitement around the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. We are attempting to do something new and different with enormous potential rewards.

In the UK, we’ve never tried this sort of targeted approach to challenges before. We see this as creating a real difference. We’re already starting to see the benefit of this new approach and we want you to join us so that we can drive innovation right across the country.

Over the next few weeks, my colleagues Mike Sullivan, Andrew Tyrrer and Simon Edmonds will be posting blogs here alongside a series of videos that explain the challenges in more detail. They’ll be looking at some of the great work that’s already been done in the UK by our businesses and academics, and why we think the UK has real potential to make a game changing breakthrough. Do keep an eye out for those.

Looking to the future

These challenges are just the start.  During our first round of engagement work, we asked for ideas for addressing these challenges and have begun funding projects right across the country. We already have some great responses but there are lots of grand challenges out there, and we’re looking closely at what should be included in the next wave. There’s plenty more to come.

As a final thought, for those who ask: why are we setting our sights so high? Well, to paraphrase John F. Kennedy, who knew a lot about trying to get to the moon:

We choose to do [these] things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

Innovation is all about taking risks, that’s how you get ahead, and stay ahead. We need you to help us to achieve this aim. Watch this space for more information about how you can get involved.

Follow me on Twitter: @Mike_Biddle

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