Funding competition Establishing a core innovation hub to transform UK construction

UK based research and technology organisations can apply for up to £72 million from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. This is to establish a national core innovation hub to transform the construction sector.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


Innovate UK as part of UK Research and Innovation will invest up to £72 million to establish a core innovation hub (CIH) to transform the UK construction sector.

The core innovation hub will support collaboration across the digital, manufacturing and construction sectors to develop and commercialise digital and manufacturing technologies for the construction sector. The hub consortium will enable these sectors to collaborate to:

  • develop a digitally driven, manufacturing approach to built assets
  • improve construction sector productivity
  • optimise the whole-life performance of those assets

It will lead a programme to develop standards, tools, designs and regulation methods. These will support a sustainable marketplace for digitally driven manufacturing in construction.

Whilst activities in the hub will be undertaken in existing facilities, it is expected that it will actively develop links with other centres, business and academia to support innovation in construction across the UK.

Funding type


Project size

Total project costs can be up to £72 million. Projects should start on 1 August 2018 and last for 4 years.

Who can apply

To be eligible for funding you must:

  • be a UK based research and technology organisation (RTO)
  • have substantive existing facilities and expertise in the digital, manufacturing and/or construction sectors that can be expanded upon
  • demonstrate significant private sector involvement with the project, and investment in and usage of the facilities after the project is completed
  • carry out your project work in the UK
  • work in collaboration with others in the UK construction sector (businesses, research base or public sector)

If you are an academic you cannot lead a project but you can partner with an RTO


We have allocated up to £72 million across the 4 year life of the project.

We expect to fund a consortium of existing facilities. You should demonstrate that you have a commitment from the private sector after the project is completed to at least match the investment through usage of the facilities within the first 5 years.

Funding will be phased and dependent on you achieving the milestone objectives for the previous funding phase. The milestone objectives are set and agreed with you by the ISCF Transforming Construction Challenge Management Board at award stage.

We plan to allocate funding in 4 phases:

  1. 2018 to 2019 £17 million
  2. 2019 to 2020 £17 million
  3. 2020 to 2021 £22 million
  4. 2021 to 2022 £16 million

The successful application must show that the project will be compliant with relevant state aid regulations.

We envisage state aid will fall across 2 categories:

  1. Funding for research infrastructure for capital build and equipment elements of up to £15 million.
  2. Funding for the R&D programme elements of up to £60 million.
Information on the 2 state aid categories are covered in the state aid manual from page 39.

You must provide a forecast of the expected costs recouped from usage of the facility and its services after completion of the project. This will help demonstrate you are able to match the funding you have requested.

Business partners can be included in your consortium but will not be able to claim grant funding.

Your proposal

We expect to fund a consortium of existing facilities as a single core innovation hub.

The hub will support collaboration between industry and academics. Together they should work on an approach for digital and manufacturing technology that is performance based. The focus should be to:

  • create better performing built assets
  • increase industry wide adoption of emerging digital and manufacturing technologies
  • design new processes to improve productivity in the construction sector

The innovation hub should provide access to technical equipment, knowledge and development programmes to enable:

  • the development of digital infrastructure and product specifications, building on existing level 2 and 3 building information modelling (BIM) standards
  • the development of end-to-end system processes from design, through build and commissioning, to maintenance at full scale for a manufacturing approach to buildings
  • large scale testing of manufactured infrastructure component systems during development
  • independent validation of the functional performance of products and processes, and assurance to a digital certification process

Your proposal should demonstrate how you will:

  • support government policy around the adoption of modern methods of construction, investment programmes and procurement needs
  • use the above methods to define a product family architecture (families of standard components and possible variants) for publicly procured assets, and work with industry to develop them
  • create shared industry digital systems for testing and validating standard components as safe and meeting the requirements for a built asset as part of a manufacturing supply chain, to enable a sustainable and open marketplace
  • digitise building standards and validation processes that can be included in design and manufacturing processes

Specific themes

The hub should transform the construction sector by:

  • acting as the core of a wider network of existing facilities and cross-sector partners
  • co-ordinating and supporting innovation through cross-sector working, including with manufacturing, digital and energy, to improve the whole-life performance of built assets
  • providing a secure facility so that the construction, manufacturing and digital sectors can collaborate on design for manufacturing and assembly approaches to a wide range of built assets
  • enabling public and private sector organisations to access programme outputs, so long as these fit with the overall objectives of the programme
  • working closely with the ISCF Transforming Construction funded Active Building Centre to make sure developed products can be fully integrated
  • working with all partners across UK and international research and innovation, including related Catapults, research centres, Centres for Doctoral Training, and businesses throughout construction supply chains, particularly SMEs and start-ups
  • encouraging investment in the UK
  • promoting its digital methods and standards to encourage international exports
  • helping SMEs to demonstrate technologies and their benefits to the marketplace
  • training and developing people in academia and industry, including scientists, engineers, technicians and regulatory auditors
  • helping innovators from all sectors learn from one another

Project types

We will give priority to proposals that:

  • can establish the hub in time
  • can demonstrate an integrated consortium of facilities with effective governance and management structures to co-ordinate programme activities
  • can demonstrate strong industry commitment to the project after completion
  • provide evidence you are able to recoup the costs to match the funding requested
  • have existing facilities relevant to this competition that can be expanded upon
  • set out a clear plan for sustainability beyond the lifetime of the grant
  • have considered the national security implications of the programme
26 March 2018
Competition opens
28 March 2018
Applicant briefing webinar recording.
18 April 2018
Cardiff briefing event.
19 April 2018
Building event run by the KTN.
25 April 2018
Belfast briefing event.
26 April 2018
Glasgow briefing event.
23 May 2018 12:00pm
Competition closes
13 June 2018
Invite to interview.
21 June 2018
Interview panel 21 to 22 June.
4 September 2018 4:00pm
Applicants notified

Before you start

Please read the general guidance for applicants. 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 application
  • representing your organisation in leading the project if your application is successful

You will be able to invite:

  • colleagues to contribute to the application
  • other organisations to participate in the project as collaborators if your application is successful

Partner organisations can be other businesses, research organisations, public sector organisations or charities.

Initially you will apply online .

Within your application you will be asked to explain how you comply with state aid.

This application will be assessed by 5 independent industry experts to select the highest quality bids.

A validation process will be running in parallel whilst your application is being assessed. This is to enable us to confirm your state aid requirements, security clearance levels and provide sufficient time to settle any pre-award issues.

We will contact you if we need any further information at this time.

If successful, you will then be invited to interview to be held 21 to 22 June 2018.


If your application is successful at the written stage you will be invited to attend an interview.

Presentations should be a maximum of 40 minutes in length, with no more than 40 slides (using Microsoft PowerPoint). Please do not include any video or embedded web links. This will be followed by 60 minutes of questions and answers.

You must submit your presentation slides to Innovate UK by the date stated in the email we will send inviting you to an interview. You will not be able to make any changes to the presentation after this date.

Up to 5 people from your project can attend the interview panel. Agree with your consortium who will attend, ideally one person from each organisation, and send us their names by the date stated in the invitation email. Make sure they will be available on all of the published interview dates. We are unable to reschedule slots once allocated.

You will be expected to answer questions based on your application form and the assessor feedback from the written stage.

What we will ask you

The application is split into 2 sections:

  1. Project details
  2. Application questions

1. Project details

Explain your project. This section is not scored, but we will use it to decide whether the project fits with the scope of the competition. If it doesn’t, it will be immediately rejected.

Application details

The lead applicant must complete this section. Give your project’s title, start date and length. List any partner organisations you have named as collaborators.

Project summary

Describe your project briefly, and be clear about what makes it innovative. We use this section to assign experts to assess your application.

Public description

Describe your project in detail, and in a way that you are happy to see published. Please do not include any commercially sensitive information. If we award your project funding, we will publish this description. This could be before you start your project.

Project scope

Describe how your project fits the scope of the competition. If your project is not in scope it will be immediately rejected and will not be sent for assessment. We will give you feedback on why.

2. Application questions

In this section, answers to these questions are scored by the assessors. Following assessment, you will receive feedback from the assessors for each question.

Section 1: Business proposition

Question 1: Approach and innovation (800 words) Scored out of 10

What is your vision for the facility and its future operating model?

  1. Explain the major features, capabilities and benefits of your vision.
  2. Referring to the requirements outlined in the competition brief, why did you choose this operating model? Who will the users of the centre be, and what demand do you expect there to be?
  3. Describe the nature of the challenges or issues facing your organisation and your potential customers, collaborators and partners. How will the intended outputs address these?
  4. Describe how the hub will be established, which consortium partners will be involved and where they will be located. Justify this and give details of the other options you considered.
  5. How will this hub link to, collaborate and work with expert facilities beyond the consortium across the UK?
  6. Set out the return on investment that the project could reasonably achieve in low, expected and high cases.
  7. Detail the total projected spend profile of the project and the spend profile of the capital investment you are applying for in this competition.

In a separate appendix you can submit in PDF format up to 2 pages to provide a summary of your business plan to outline the expected life and sustainability in your answer.

Question 2: Market awareness (800 words) Scored out of 10

What does the target market look like? How will you support and work with collaborators and customers?

  1. Describe the market, customers and collaborators that the hub and operating model will target, and describe its potential to add value to the UK economy.
  2. Detail the market analysis that shows the size of the attainable market.
  3. Describe how your proposal proves that the UK needs this hub, and explain your strategy for making this need clear to the wider public. Provide evidence where possible.
  4. Focus on how the hub will:
  • ensure that it is impartial to industrial and academic partners
  • ensure that it can work together with competing companies
  • be designed to allow concurrent collaborative as well as independent activities
  • run to a programme, including the associated funding phases
  • how the hub will work with the Active Building Centre

In a separate appendix can submit a 2 page PDF document. This is to provide any evidence of your industrial partners’ intention to use the hub in the UK, for example letters of intent.

Question 3: Wider impacts (1200 words) Scored out of 10

What are the wider impacts that will result from the project?

  1. What economic and social impact will the hub have for the UK?
  2. Describe how the proposed hub will add value and increase the UK’s reputation for being a focal point for modern methods of construction.
  3. Detail how match funding from industry will be achieved over 5 years.
  4. Explain how project inputs such as funding will generate activities like testing and development? How will these lead to outputs such as research findings, outcomes such as exploitation of technology and finally impacts like exports? If helpful, you can provide a ‘logic model’ in an appendix to demonstrate this process.
  5. Using a timeline, state the number of jobs that will be created at the hub, and those created in any direct or indirect supporting roles. How many jobs will be retained to work on the project? Include the expected longer term effect on employment. What skills will be transferable, internally and externally?
  6. How will the hub allow for teaching and skills development to increase the UK skill base for digital manufacturing in construction?
  7. How will research be disseminated beyond direct users of the facility? Provide any plans for public engagement.
  8. How will the hub integrate with and develop the UK supply chain?
  9. How you will manage the national security implications of the hub programme?

Where research organisations are involved in a project and funded for undertaking non-economic activity, we expect you to include evidence of plans to disseminate their project outputs over a reasonable timescale. This is to secure wider benefit from the higher level of public support given to research organisations.

In a separate appendix you can submit in PDF format:

  • up to 1 page on your timeline on expected employment opportunities the project will bring up to 1 page to provide a ‘logic model’ of your routes to impact.
  • up to 1 page to submit how you will manage any national security implications

Question 4: Support (800 words) Scored out of 10

How will the hub support the UK economy and UK policies?

  1. How will the hub support UK construction to move to a digital manufacturing approach?
  2. Explain how the hub will support government policy around the adoption of modern methods of construction, investment programmes and procurement needs, to define a product family architecture (families of standard components and possible variants) for publically procured assets. How will it work with industry to develop these?
  3. Describe how the hub will support the transfer of knowledge from the public built-asset work to the housing sector.
  4. Explain how the hub will create shared industry digital systems for testing and validating standard components as safe. How will these meet the requirements for a building as part of a manufacturing supply chain that enables a sustainable and open marketplace?
  5. Describe how the hub will digitise building standards and validation processes that can be included in design and manufacturing processes.
  6. Show how the hub will be developed further or improved beyond the timeframe or outside of the scope of this project.
  7. Describe how the hub will help SMEs demonstrate their technology to the market.

Section 2: The project details

Question 5: Project governance structure (800 words) Scored out of 10

What project governance structure will you use to ensure the project is delivered successfully in terms of scope, time, cost and quality?

1.Detail the facility governance structure that you will use. This could include:

  • overarching centre governance (including structure of the team)
  • management reporting lines
  • milestones and gateways
  • deliverables with timings
  • leading KPIs
  • communication management

2.Set out how you will monitor project progress, including over the set-up phase. What metrics do you intend to monitor (such as spend, usage rate) and how will you report this information? Who will be responsible for collecting and collating this data?

3.Detail how the governance team will be kept informed of progress and highlight concerns or issues early to all affected stakeholders. Identify who these stakeholders are.

4.Describe the main commitments and responsibilities of each partner. This could be captured, for example, in the form of a RASIC (responsible, approves, supports, is informed, is consulted) matrix.

5.How will the finances be managed and planned for unexpected events?

You can include a diagram (one side in PDF format) to support this response.

Question 6: Project management and timeline (800 words) Scored out of 10

How will the project be managed and what is the timeline?

  1. Identify who will lead the project on a day to day basis and how the project team will be structured.
  2. Detail a clear project plan, deliverables, milestones and gateways. Identify the main work packages.
  3. Describe how the project will achieve effective project team integration between partners, as well as the supply chain and any other main factors.
  4. Identify any internal and external support that is required and indicate what is agreed at time of writing, and what is still to be agreed.
  5. Explain your development plans to deliver a self-sustaining centre beyond the timeline of this competition’s funding.
In a separate appendix in PDF format up to 1 page. submit your project plan timeline including milestones,workpackages and deliverables of the project

Question 7: Risks (800 words) Scored out of 10

What are the risks to project success? What is the project’s risk management strategy?

  1. Identify the main risks and uncertainties of the project.
  2. Provide a detailed risk analysis for the project content and approach. Include the technical, commercial, managerial, economic and environmental risks, as well as other uncertainties associated with the project, such as ethical issues, risks to job creation or safeguarding jobs. The main risks should be rated in a format which is in keeping with the project’s risk management strategy (high, medium or low).
  3. Explain how these risks would be mitigated, and provide evidence of your ability to do this.
  4. Distinguish between the probability of mitigation strategies not being effective, and the impact this would have on the project.
  5. Identify which project management tools and mechanisms you will use to ensure you have sufficient control to minimise operational risk and promote successful project delivery. This should include arrangements for managing the project team and its partners.
  6. Your proposal should specifically address any legal agreements or consents that need to be put in place to enable the works to be undertaken.
  7. Explain in detail how the consortium will ensure open access by all. Will users retain all IP related to the developments?

In a separate appendix provide a risk table in your chosen style. This should be no more than 2 pages and supplied in PDF format.

Question 8: Team skills, experience and facilities (800 words) Scored out of 10

Does the consortium have the right skills, experience and existing relevant facilities to deliver the identified benefits?

Detail the track record of the organisations undertaking the project in delivering successful research and development and exploiting the results. In evaluating this, the assessors will consider whether:

  • the project team has available the right mix of skills and experience to deliver the project successfully
  • the project team’s formation objectives are clear, and whether it would have been formed without ISCF investment
  • there is additional benefit demonstrated as a result of the collaboration, for example, increased knowledge transfer
  • the organisations working together will achieve more than if they were working individually
  • the employees have the necessary skills to focus on the programme
  • you have considered diversity and inclusion in your proposal

Section 3: Funding and added value

Question 9: Financial commitment (800 words) Scored out of 10

What is the financial commitment required for the project?

  1. What project costs do you anticipate?
  2. Detail the grant split and contribution from each of the consortium members and how they comply with state aid rules.
  3. Define what the expected operational and maintenance costs will be, who will be responsible for them, and how they will be financially sustainable.
  4. Detail the financial year breakdown, referencing the suggested phases of funding and the split between capital and resource costs. Provide funding breakdown information by partner in the appendix that accompanies this question.
  5. Explain why the specific level of grant funding requested is needed. Why not more or less?
  6. Explain how the hub will continue to be funded throughout its life. Provide supporting information and an explanation for project costs, describing:
  • your cost plan, with details of how costs have been assessed, including any professional costs advice and benchmarking
  • the proposed tendering strategy to explain how the works and equipment will be procured to ensure best value for money, and how you will ensure most of the funding will be spent in the UK

In evaluating this the assessors will consider whether:

  • the budget is realistic for the scale and complexity of the project
  • a financial commitment from other sources is demonstrated for the balance of the project costs
  • a realistic budget breakdown has been provided
  • any work package breakdowns have been described and justified adequately
  • expected compliance with state aid categories has been detailed

All applications that reach the interview stage will be asked to provide independent assurance in relation to their compliance with state aid rules. You should demonstrate here that you have investigated it fully.

In a separate appendix you may provide a breakdown of the project headline finances against state aid categories. This should be no more than 3 pages and supplied in PDF format.

Question 10: Funding from ISCF (800 words) Scored out of 10

How does funding from ISCF add value?

  1. Explain why this project could not take place without government financial support.
  2. Explain what contribution you are requesting from government for each work package. Justify why this specific amount of funding is needed.
  3. Detail how the funding required enables the project to proceed quickly and at scale.
  4. Give a clear description of expected co-funding from industry and any direct follow-on funding from industry.

Applicants may be asked for additional financial information relating to their bid or organisation. This could about the project or specific to consortium members. The requirement for additional financial information will vary across applications. It will be dependent upon the nature of the application and the applicant’s specific argument for support.

In a separate appendix you can submit up to 2 pages of supporting evidence in PDF format. The font must be Arial 10.

Other funding from public sector bodies

If you have funding from other public sector bodies for your project please provide:

  • the names of the bodies
  • the name of the programme or scheme from which the funds are provided
  • the fund amounts

Background and further information

Transforming construction: manufacturing better buildings

Challenge: eliminate the productivity gap in construction and pave a faster route to building safer, healthier and more affordable places to live and learn that use dramatically less energy.

The construction sector needs a drastic transformation if it is to deliver the buildings that the UK needs. Productivity growth is around a third of that of the wider economy and has remained largely unchanged for 40 years. The industry also faces a skills crisis due to an aging workforce and the potential impacts of Brexit. These challenges threaten the sector’s ability to meet the projected demand for public buildings and infrastructure.

This ISCF challenge area brings together the construction, manufacturing, energy and digital sectors to revolutionise the UK’s building performance. Learning from advanced manufacturing in other sectors we will adopt a cross-sector, collaborative approach. This will standardise the modularised components from which buildings are designed, manufactured and assembled, and the way these phases are carried out. Standards for building management and smart systems will allow us to measure building use, enabling a whole-life performance approach to managing assets.

The outputs of this challenge will lay the foundations to help us manufacture built assets with greater certainty. The aim is for construction to be 50% faster and 33% cheaper while halving the lifetime carbon emissions (against 2010 baselines) and eliminating the productivity gap between the sector and the rest of the economy.

This competition is to create a core innovation hub (CIH). This is a collaboration of existing facilities that can address the performance and manufacturing objectives of the programme.

If you want help to find a project partner, 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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