Where are we at with the Industrial Strategy and its associated Challenge funding, which was launched by Greg Clark almost 18 months ago? Who’s winning and who’s losing, what’s been backed, what hasn’t, what’s next? And importantly, what’s in it for you?
When the Industrial Strategy was first published, we at UoB were very excited, as the four Grand Challenges (Artificial Intelligence and Data; Clean Growth; Future of Mobility; Ageing Society) were all things that we had particular strengths in, and either existing or developing strategic partnerships. Fast forward to now and we’ve had some great successes: the National Centre for Nuclear Robotics, the Faraday Institute ReLiB project, and investments into non-STEM areas like applied social sciences research analysing commercialisation frameworks, and virtual and augmented reality in theatre. We’ve had some near misses as well, with a large project with large and small firms looking at how AI can best support the development of business and professional services falling at the last hurdle, but living on in a smaller project currently underway.
In fact, as of last October, the West Midlands as a region has received the highest amount of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Funds out of all the regions in the UK. So we’re definitely doing something right!
Every year we work with hundreds of businesses, from the very largest global firms to sole traders and freelancers, and the Industrial Strategy and associated Challenge Funds (plus our input into the Local Industrial Strategy for the West Midlands) has really focussed us when working with business. Our key question with partners, clients and collaborators is now how can we make your business more innovative and more productive?
The next wave of Industrial Strategy funding is nearly upon us, covering challenges including: Accelerating detection of disease (up to £79m), Commercialising quantum technologies (up to £70m), Digital security by design (up to £70m), Driving the electric revolution (up to £78m), Future flight (up to £125m), Industrial decarbonisation (up to £170m), Manufacturing made smarter (up to £121m), Smart sustainable plastic packaging (up to £60m), and Transforming foundation industries (up to £66m). However, we now await Treasury approval for the above challenges and business cases, and expect funding to start being announced from late Spring/early Summer.
We’ve already seen hundreds of SMEs and multinationals benefit from ISCF funding, whether augmenting existing R&D activity or providing a new way to fund innovation in manufacturing, service delivery, product design or other core business activities. It’s important to remember what a difference working with academia can make, through challenging norms or stimulating new thought processes. Please do reach out to us if we can work with you on Industrial Strategy-related challenges, or those not covered above – we have a number of other strengths across the four key pillars, and just because they aren’t listed in wave 3 as above doesn’t mean we aren’t keen to work with industry to lobby for them to be included in wave 4 in 2020.