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Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund - wave 3 update

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

Now that we’ve closed the Expression of Interest for the next wave of challenges for the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, I thought it would be helpful to briefly explain what happens next.

Smiling woman holding 4 sheets of paper. Pop art style image.

252 expressions of interest to read

The first thing to say is that throughout all of the work we do next we will build on what we have learnt from the workshops and engagement we did throughout 2017. This time around, we received 252 Expressions of Interest by the closing date and we’re delighted to see the breadth of possible challenges that people have proposed. We are now reading through every submission, which, as you can imagine, means we have lots of interesting reading ahead.

If we take a simple total of the suggested levels of funding, around £12.5 billion is requested from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, with just over £10.2 billion then coming from industry.

As we have done before, we will consider all of these ideas, look for common themes or where those ideas might complement or contrast with some of the existing challenges. Where there are ideas that could work together to make a more compelling challenge, we may well run a few workshops to consolidate the thinking before adding them to the list.

From expressions of interest to a working list

We’re starting to work through the Expressions of Interest in stages - first of all we’re looking which Grand Challenges from the Industrial Strategy have been covered and we are making sure that the proposed challenge is not just a funding request for a specific project.  This will become our working list of ideas. This stage will be our first chance to explore if there are some common areas of interest across the wave 3 submissions and also whether connections could be made to existing challenges supported in waves 1 and 2.

We are working on this right now and will come back to people by the end of May if the Expression of Interest has not made it onto the working list.

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Comparing our working list with desired characteristics

Our next step will be to go through the working list to make sure that the submissions include the characteristics we’re looking for in an ISCF challenge. As we have said in the Expression of Interest and re-iterated in our wave 3 blog – we want to see that:

  • the challenge is compelling, focused, and articulated in a way that anyone will understand and see the benefit of solving
  • there is robust and well-evidenced data that indicates the challenge will create economic growth
  • the challenge is industry-led in an area of existing UK strength
  • the challenge 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.

Moving to a short-list of challenges

These criteria will help us create a short list of challenges that will be explored further to really understand how and why Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund support would have a positive impact.

Once we get to short list stage we will assign a small team from UK Research and Innovation to work with those who made the Expression of Interest to refine the exact challenge we’re trying to tackle and establish how we plan to do that in partnership between industry, researchers and Government.

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Expert review

As part of this, we will produce a short narrative and evidence document which we can then refine and review with experts in the field.

Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund - wave 3 timeline

So, to review the timeline:

  • By the end of May – Identify the working list of proposed challenges
  • By early July – Identify short-list of proposed challenges
  • Summer – UK Research and Innovation works with the leaders of short-listed Expression of Interests to develop the challenge further
  • Early September – deep-dive workshops with experts across the country to explore the short listed challenges.
  • Mid October – UK Research and Innovation reviews short listed challenges and makes recommendations to ministers
  • November (to be confirmed) – Announcement of selected challenges

Sir Mark Walport is taking a direct personal interest in the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and, with the UK Research and Innovation Board, will be making recommendations to ministers regarding how we proceed.

As Sir Mark has said – the important words are Industrial and Challenge – and we will be keeping these front of mind as we consider the 252 Expressions of Interest that we have received.


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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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