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A year in review: UK Industry and Innovation in 2020

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2020 was an extraordinary year and the challenges presented by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic caused UK industry to rethink how it will operate over the long-term.

In response to this unprecedented environment, the government and UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) flagship business-led Challenge Fund has been supporting industries and businesses. Including running additional funding competitions and granting extensions to projects impacted by lockdowns.

The impact of COVID-19

The pandemic changed the way in which the UK could do business. According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), 48% of businesses experienced a decrease in turnover as a result of COVID-19*. Lockdown also meant organisations could only have a limited number of people meeting at any one time and so technology had to be invested in as workforces became increasingly home-based.

But with great challenges comes great innovation. We have seen organisations develop game-changing ideas that will help the UK navigate its way through the pandemic and into the future. The tenacity and entrepreneurial spirit demonstrated by British organisations and businesses striding forward means the UK is well-placed to lead the world of science and innovation in 2021.

Here we celebrate some of the business successes that came out of 2020 from across the UK.

Success in 2020

BIM for remote working

In direct response to COVID-19, 3D Repo took on some of the biggest barriers to adoption of Building Information Modelling (BIM). Within three months of the pandemic hitting, they had a solution to help firms deal with large amounts of data and massive bandwidth while working remotely.

The new feature increases internet connectivity and enables smoother screen sharing to support better collaboration on projects. It helps make remote working more efficient, decision-making more democratic and programmes more cost-effective. And the new technology has been backed up by free training and BIM support to help small to medium-sized construction firms in the early days of the pandemic.

Electronic Minds

Electronic Minds from Pangbourne near Reading not only started but grew their business during the COVID-19 pandemic thanks to funding from Driving the Electric Revolution.

The money from the Business-led innovation in response to global disruption (de minimis) competition meant Electronic Minds could run a series of free online webinars to deliver training on Power Electronics for a global audience.

The success of the series has meant that Electronic Minds can already think about expanding and hiring more staff.


Wales’s largest post-production company, Gorilla created a remote editing toolkit that allows its 70 staff members and wider teammates to work from wherever they are on lockdown.

Using funding from Clwstwr (part of ISCF), a programme that supports screen-related innovation in South Wales, Gorilla worked with manufacturers and organisations to combine lots of different services into one remote toolkit. It has enabled the team to continue working on shows, films and media for UK television channels and the likes of HBO, Netflix and BBC Worldwide, despite the pandemic.

Looking ahead

As 2021 gets underway we want organisations, that are finding innovative ways to adapt to the new environment that COVID-19 presents, to know that UKRI is committed to providing funding for different industries.

We want to hear about projects that will help the UK make the most of the new ways of working. So, if you’ve got an idea you think we should be funding please let us know, and make sure you visit our Funding Finder for the latest opportunities.

* ONS – Coronavirus and the economic impacts on the UK (October 2020)


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