There’s lots of exciting news since I last wrote here in June about the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF). If you missed it, the ISCF was announced in April and is part of the government’s £4.7 billion increase in research and development over the next 4 years.
It’s all about putting innovation at the heart of improving living standards, creating well-paid sustainable jobs and driving economic growth.
The ISCF is a series of challenges, some of which have already been announced by ministers and more still under discussion to hopefully be announced soon. Here at Innovate UK, along with our colleagues at the research councils, we’ve been busy launching the first funding competitions to support the challenges announced so far.
We know there are lots of exciting businesses working across these areas – and we already know there are lots of interesting challenges to get involved in and plenty more on the way.
The first wave
Take a look at the opportunities we have already launched. Some, such as the first competition in the challenge to develop robotics and artificial intelligence technologies that can take people out of dangerous work environments and go beyond human limits, are now closed. Others, including the Faraday Battery Challenge for battery innovation (more on that below) and innovative solutions to the manufacturing of medicines, are still open to applications for a few more days.
If you’ve not been able to get involved so far – don’t be downhearted - there will soon be more competitions under these three challenges soon – most likely early in 2018.
How do we decide a challenge?
You might ask how we go about deciding what the challenges are.
They need to be in areas where businesses can improve their productivity, where there are opportunities for economic growth for the country and where we at Innovate UK and other government partners can make a difference by bringing people together and providing funding support.
It is an intense activity. Many of my colleagues at Innovate UK, the research councils, the Knowledge Transfer Network, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and other Government Departments across Whitehall have been working very hard throughout the summer, in consultation with researchers and business leaders, to draw up the options for the next wave of challenges. The Council for Science and Technology have also helped us by taking an overall advisory role.
A number of teams have been looking at the need for a challenge, the likelihood of its success, possible partners, costs and future growth. They’ve been meeting up with researchers and industry leaders to refine the ideas so that UK Research and Innovation can reflect on the opportunities and make our recommendations to ministers.
The Faraday Battery Challenge
The great thing about the ISCF is that it is a really targeted approach to solving the great challenges ahead of us and then about reaping the economic rewards.
Take the Faraday Battery Challenge, for example. You will have seen that countries across the world, including the UK, are signalling the end of new petrol and diesel cars within the next couple of decades.
It’s highly likely that the next 20 years will see a progressive rise in battery-powered vehicles on the roads. We’ll need better batteries that are lighter, can take a car further, last longer, charge faster and have low impact on the environment. The capability to do this in the volumes that are needed does not yet exist - we want those batteries to be developed and made in the UK!
We have the world-class expertise in battery science. The Faraday Battery Challenge is a £246 million investment over four years in battery development to take advantage of this fantastic science and make the UK the go-to place for battery technology.
Greg Clark, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, recently announced the Faraday Institution. This is a £65 million national institute for battery research, funded through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. We also expect to announce very soon a state-of-the-art battery manufacturing development facility.
Keep an eye out for the announcement of the second wave of challenges to see if there’s something you want to get involved in and watch out for more competition announcements on our website. It would also be great to see you involved in helping us to developing future waves of challenges.
These challenges are not easy but the rewards for everyone are potentially great if we can meet them by working together.
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