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Wave 3 of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund

Posted by: and , Posted on: - Categories: Funding, ISCF, Support

With a week to go we thought it would be helpful to clear-up a few questions that several organisations have asked us about Wave 3 because it will help you all.  A lot of this was covered in the briefing event so that’s also worth listening to if you’re thinking of proposing a challenge for Wave 3 of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF).

The briefing event gave us a really interesting insight into what people think about the challenge expression of interest (EOI) and highlighted a few common questions and misconceptions which we thought it would be good to address here.

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What are we looking for in an ISCF challenge?

Before we get into some of those questions – we’d also like to re-iterate what we’re looking for in an ISCF challenge.

  • Challenge is compelling, focused, and articulated in a way that anyone will understand and see the benefit of solving
  • It is industry-led in an area of existing UK strength
  • It takes advantage of our research depth and expertise
  • There is a clear opportunity for growth with a sustainable global market and contribution from industry
  • Evidence indicates that Government intervention is necessary and of strategic importance to the UK
  • Evidence indicates that solving the challenge will catalyse productivity growth

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If I’m not part of a challenge I can’t apply for funding from it later?

This has come up a few times. Ultimately, the selected challenges will run funding competitions to help solve the challenge.  We anticipate these will open from April 2019 onwards and will be open to all eligible organisation to apply to whether or not they proposed the challenge.

Being part of a team that proposes a challenge that makes it into Wave 3 won’t entitle you to a share of the funding nor will not taking part in this challenge EOI exclude you from applying for funding from any selected challenges at a later date.

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Is it correct that only businesses can develop and submit challenges?

While submissions need to focus on an industrial challenge – they can be led by a business or Research and Technology Organisation (RTO).  This could even be an industry body – as long as they are registered as a business.

We recognise that there’s huge benefit to bringing together a wide consortium including the likes of universities, and business schools from our world-class research base – indeed that is what we want to see – but we do want it to be lead from a business or RTO.

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How is an industry supposed to provide matched funding – is this cash-match up-front?

The ISCF challenges will be run by UK Research and Innovation and be a combination of Government and industry funding.  We expect industry to have skin in the game so the £ size of the challenge needs to include what you want from the fund along with we can expect to see from you and your partners if the challenges are chosen.

We’re not expecting businesses to transfer cash into an account to support ISCF up-front, the industry cash contribution will come from your contributions to projects supported by ISCF which would be selected through competition.  This would be done in a very similar fashion to the competitions that UK Research and Innovation already runs – i.e. collaborative research and development competitions.

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What about working with foreign companies – can they get ISCF funding?

The ISCF is a UK government fund so it needs to focus on challenges the UK faces – admittedly with a global market that could result from addressing them.  International collaborations are possible – indeed encouraging inward investment into the UK for R&D would be welcomed – as long as the funding from the ISCF is used for R&D activity in the UK.

As an example international collaborations have been included in some of the ISCF challenges already announced – what we need to see is why this global angle would make a difference – i.e. evidence of international markets and potential foreign investment in the UK could strengthen your case.

Starburst red and blue Industrial Strategy logo next to the words Industrial Strategy.

What do you want us to say about potential Challenge Directors at this stage?

In Question 5 of the application we’re asking you to suggest a Challenge Director, this a key role as they’ll be the driving force behind the challenge making every effort to ensure industry addresses it. They’ll need to be able to bring industry together and provide leadership, and they should ideally be part of the team putting the challenge together.

What we want to see is that you have given some thought towards the potential leaders for this challenge – we’re not after detailed CV’s or commitment to employment but we would like to see there are some natural rallying points to build the challenge around if it progresses.

We’re using Innovate UK’s Innovation Funding Service for this challenge EOI, which was designed for project proposals so when you’re writing your challenge EOI and see the word project read it as challenge.


If you’re unsure about anything to do with ISCF Wave 3 don’t hesitate to ask our competition helpline on 0300 321 4357 or email us at

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