Funding competition Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund expression of interest

UK businesses can propose which of the main challenges faced by UK industry should be addressed by the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


UK Research and Innovation is inviting expressions of interest to identify the next wave of challenges to be supported under the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF). ISCF funding comes from UK Research and Innovation, business and the public sector working in partnership.

The aim of this open expression of interest (EoI) is to identify the main challenges faced by industry and society in the UK. We want to understand the level of demand for innovation funding in order to address them.

Your proposal must identify the challenge and explain what the impact would be if it were solved. Provide evidence of strong industry demand for funding and identify what market opportunities a solution would create.

Explain what is preventing this challenge from being solved and why UK companies and research organisations are well-placed to tackle it.

This EoI is not a competition for funding in itself but a way for you to identify the main challenges for your industry. These challenges may then be addressed by ISCF.

Funding type


Project size

Projects from the selected wave 3 challenges should start from April 2019 and last up to 3 years. If you think the projects from your challenge would be later than this, indicate this in question 1.

Who can apply

Expressions of interest are welcome from industry-led consortia.

For challenges to be chosen there must be evidence of interest from across industry and the research base. Identify important organisations in your area and work collaboratively with them to develop your expression of interest.

Once the expression of interest process has closed, UK Research and Innovation will select a shortlist of challenges. Funding for these will be made available through competitions beginning in 2019.

Partner organisations can be other businesses, research organisations, public sector organisations or charities, but the EoI must be industry-led.

If we receive similar suggestions from more than one submission, we may suggest the organisations involved collaborate to provide a stronger combined submission.


This is not a competition for funding, but an expression of interest to help identify challenges to be supported in future waves of the ISCF.

Your expression of interest should include an estimate of the amount of funding required to address the challenge in question.

Your proposal

The ISCF is a new mission-orientated funding approach. It brings the UK’s world-leading research together with businesses and charities to tackle major industrial and societal challenges.

In 2019 UK Research and Innovation will make new investments using this fund. We are seeking expressions of interest to help us identify new challenges to be included. These will focus on at least one of the 4 ‘grand challenges’ identified in the government’s Industrial Strategy: building a Britain fit for the future, published in November 2017.

The challenges you propose must be compelling, focused and articulated in a way that anyone will understand and see the benefit of solving. They must be business led, and solving them must offer tangible benefits in terms of productivity and economic growth.

Your expressions of interest must explain why support from the ISCF is needed. It must make clear that addressing the challenge will require new activity that is not currently funded by other means.

Specific themes

Your application must focus on one of the government’s 4 ‘grand challenges’, which are:

  • putting the UK at the forefront of the artificial intelligence and big data revolution
  • maximising advantages to UK industry from the global shift to clean growth
  • becoming a world leader in shaping the future of mobility
  • harnessing the power of innovation to meet the needs of an ageing society

For more information see the Industrial Strategy document.

Challenges we won’t consider

We will not consider challenges that:

  • do not align with the Industrial Strategy grand challenges
  • have already been supported or announced in previous waves of ISCF
  • represent business as usual or activities that are already funded through other means

28 February 2018
Competition opens
14 March 2018
Online briefing event. Watch the recording.
18 April 2018 12:00pm
Competition closes
18 May 2018
Applicants notified

Before you start

Please read the government’s Industrial Strategy: Building a Britain Fit for the Future. It will help your chances of submitting a quality application.

When you start an application you will be prompted to create an account as the lead applicant or sign in as a representative of your organisation. You will need an account to track the progress of your application.

As the lead applicant you will be responsible for collecting the information for your submission.

You will be able to invite colleagues to contribute to the application

What we will ask you

The application is split into 2 sections:

  1. Application details
  2. Application questions

1. Application details

Project summary

Challenge summary (40 words maximum)

In one sentence concisely articulate the challenge with no jargon. Say what the challenge is, why it is worth solving and what the positive impact would be if it was addressed.

Scope: Alignment with grand challenges (20 words maximum)

Identify which of the following ‘grand challenges’ your challenge relates to:

  • clean growth
  • ageing society
  • future of mobility
  • artificial intelligence and the data economy

2. Application questions

Question 1: describe your challenge. (500 words maximum)

Provide further information about the challenge, including:

  • a clear, non-technical description of why it is worth solving, why now and why government should be involved
  • a summary of how it will be possible to judge when the solution has been developed and the challenge addressed?
  • the real-world impact of the challenge, including who the main beneficiaries would be if it was solved and the impact it would have on the general public

Addressing the challenge cannot be achieved through ‘business as usual’. This expression of interest does not relate to activity already funded by other means. You must show clear business leadership for the challenge.

Question 2: what is the opportunity for productivity growth? (300 words maximum)

Explain how addressing this challenge would have a positive impact on productivity growth, including:

  • which areas of the economy would see productivity growth
  • the potential wider social or non-market benefits of solving this challenge, such as improvements in health or environment
Question 3: what is the market opportunity? (300 words maximum)

Identify the market opportunity associated with this challenge. Briefly summarise relevant evidence of the global value and potential growth of the relevant market or markets.

Question 4: what evidence is there of UK strengths and competitive advantage? (500 words maximum)

Explain how the UK has the research and development capability and business readiness to meet the challenge. Identify:

  • the relevant UK research strengths
  • the industry supply chain needed to address this challenge at scale, and the relevant UK industrial strengths
  • how the UK has the capacity to be a world leader in addressing this challenge, and what the likelihood is that UK companies will be able to take advantage of the global opportunities that arise from the development of successful solutions
Question 5: what is the demand from industry? (500 words maximum)

Describe the level of industry demand in the UK for ISCF support to solve this challenge. Give:

  • the main UK-based stakeholders with an interest in this challenge, providing a list of supporters as an appendix
  • how co-ordinated industry and academia are currently, and whether they could effectively come together in multidisciplinary partnerships to provide leadership around this challenge
  • the evidence, where available of the extent to which industry would be willing and have the resources to co-invest to solve this challenge

If your challenge is selected it is critical it has a director to run it. Please indicate who would be a suitable leader for your challenge, preferably someone from your proposal team.

You can submit an appendix with relevant supporting information, such as a list of supporters (from industry, academia or elsewhere) and letters of support. Do not provide in-depth economic or market analysis at this stage. This will be co-ordinated by UK Research and Innovation during the assessment phase. Supporting information must be in a PDF format no larger than 1MB.
Question 6: why is ISCF support needed? (300 words maximum)

Explain how ISCF will add value and why existing or planned investments from industry, government or the research base are not sufficient to address this challenge. Explain:

  • how things are done today and what the limits of current practice are from an industry and technical perspective
  • what is new about the approach you are proposing for tackling the challenge
  • why now is the right time to invest to address the challenge
  • how ISCF will address a critical gap in current funding to address this challenge
Question 7: what level of funding is needed? (50 words maximum)

Provide an estimate of the amount of funding needed over 3 years to address this challenge from:

  1. ISCF.
  2. Industry.

ISCF funding comes from UK Research and Innovation and business and the public sector working in partnership.

Question 8: are you happy for us to share your details with potential collaborators?
If we receive similar suggestions from more than one submission, we could suggest that the organisations involved collaborate. This is so they can provide a stronger, combined submission. Please state whether you agree to us sharing your contact details in this way. Your answer should be either yes or no.

Background and further information

If you want help to find partners, contact the Knowledge Transfer Network.

If you need more information, contact the competition helpline on 0300 321 4357 or email us at

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