Funding competition Increase productivity, performance and quality in UK construction

UK organisations can apply for a share of up to £12.5 million from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund to increase productivity, performance and quality in construction.

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


Innovate UK, as part of UK Research and Innovation, will invest up to £12.5 million in innovative projects to transform the UK construction sector.

The aim of this competition is to invest in solutions to improve productivity, quality and performance of the UK construction sector. We are specifically looking for projects to improve the 3 core stages of the construction lifecycle:

  1. Designing and managing buildings through digitally-enabled performance management.
  2. Constructing quality buildings using a manufacturing approach.
  3. Powering buildings with active energy components and improving build quality.

The results should lead to a streamlined process that saves costs, reduces delays and improves collaborations, productivity and outputs.

Projects must address the objectives of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund on Transforming Construction and show how they will contribute to its impact. We will prioritise projects which demonstrate cross-sector collaboration and scalable solutions.

Proposals must be led by a UK based for-profit business. We encourage you to involve users or testbed providers.

Projects must start by December 2018 and end by December 2020.

If your project’s total costs or duration fall outside of our eligibility criteria, email us before you apply.

Funding type


Project size

Projects that last between 6 and 12 months may have total project costs of between £25,000 and £500,000. Projects that last between 12 and 24 months may have total project costs of between £250,000 and £1 million. Projects must start by December 2018.

Who can apply

To be eligible for funding you must:

  • be a UK based business, academic organisation, charity, public sector organisation or research and technology organisation (RTO)
  • carry out your project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK
  • work in collaboration with other businesses, research organisations, public sector or third sector organisations

Projects must be collaborative and involve a micro, small or medium-sized enterprise (SME). In particular, multidisciplinary collaboration is strongly encouraged. A business must lead an application.

Find out if your business fits the EU definition of an SME.

Any one business may lead on one application and collaborate in a further 2 applications. If a business is not leading an application, they can be a collaborator in up to 3 applications.

An RTO or academic institution cannot lead on an application but can be a collaborator in any number of applications.

Projects may include partners that do not receive any funding (for example, non-UK businesses). Their costs will count towards the total project costs but they will not count as collaborators.


We have allocated up to £12.5 million to fund innovation projects in this competition.

The research organisations in your consortium can share up to 30% of the total eligible project costs. If your consortium contains more than one research organisation, this maximum will be shared between them.

Your proposal

The aim of this competition is to increase productivity in the UK construction sector and the quality and performance of buildings.

We are looking to fund collaborative projects that develop technologies, processes and business models that can:

  • deliver new built assets 50% faster and 33% cheaper
  • halve the lifetime carbon emissions
  • improve whole-life performance

Your project must respond to one or more of the following Industrial Strategy Challenge objectives:

  1. Encourage new construction projects to use ‘design for manufacturing and assembly’ approaches and active energy technologies. Target: an increase in the pre-manufactured value of built assets.
  2. Increase the productivity of construction projects. Target: 15% over current methods
  3. Develop new, scalable methods that speed up construction and provide greater certainty about budgets and timing. Target: 50% reduction in time from inception to completion from 2010 baseline.
  4. Develop integrated building components that generate, manage and store energy, to bring the down the cost of active buildings Target: closer to market cost for standard component.
  5. Reduce construction costs and whole-life costs of built assets. Target: 33% reduction against 2010 baseline.
  6. Improve the whole-life value and safety of built assets (user performance), including a reduction in carbon intensity. Target: 50%.

We will prioritise proposals that demonstrate cross-sector collaboration.

Projects of between 6 and 12 months may include feasibility studies, industrial research or a combination of both.

Projects of between 12 and 24 months may include industrial research, experimental development or a combination of both.

Specific themes

We expect projects will involve one or more of the following:

  • application or adoption of innovative digital and manufacturing technologies
  • development of cohesive and collaborative business models
  • supply chain integration to support economies of scale

We particularly welcome innovative and ambitious partnerships. In particular multidisciplinary solutions in the following:

  • digital
  • internet of things
  • energy
  • manufacturing
  • construction project management

We are looking to fund a portfolio of technology, business model and supply chain integration innovations that best deliver the competition objectives. These may include feasibility studies, industrial research projects or experimental development projects.

Project types

For feasibility studies and industrial research projects, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • up to 70% if you are a micro or small business
  • up to 60% if you are a medium-sized business
  • up to 50% if you are a large business

For experimental development projects which are nearer to market, you could get funding for your eligible project costs of:

  • up to 45% if you are a micro or small business
  • up to 35% if you are a medium-sized business
  • up to 25% if you are a large business

Projects we will not fund

We will not fund projects that:

  • do not meet the aims of the competition
  • do not respond to the objectives and targets of the Challenge
  • look at retrofit of existing buildings

23 July 2018
Recording of the London briefing event.
23 July 2018
Online briefing event.
23 July 2018
Competition opens
24 July 2018
Bristol briefing event.
25 July 2018
Birmingham briefing event.
19 September 2018 12:00pm
Competition closes
26 October 2018 3:44pm
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 collaborate in the project if your application is successful

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

1. Application 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 does not, it will be immediately rejected.

Application details

The lead applicant must complete this section. Give your project’s title, start date and duration.

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. Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

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 happen before you start your project. Your answer can be up to 400 words long.


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. Your answer can be up to 400 words long.

2. Application questions

Your answers to these questions will be scored by the assessors. You will receive feedback from the assessors for each question.

Your answer to each question can be up to 400 words long. Do not include any URLs in your answers unless we have explicitly requested a link to a video.

Question 1: Need or challenge

What is the business need, citizen challenge, technological challenge or market opportunity behind your innovation?

Describe or explain:

  • the main motivation for the project
  • the business need, technological challenge or market opportunity
  • the nearest current state-of-the-art, including those near market or in development, and its limitations
  • any work you have already done to respond to this need, for example if the project is focused on developing an existing capability or building a new one
  • the wider economic, social, environmental, cultural or political challenges which are influential in creating the opportunity, such as incoming regulations. Our Horizons tool can help with this.

Question 2: Approach and innovation

What approach will you take and where will the focus of the innovation be?

Describe or explain:

  • how you will meet the objectives of the ISCF Transforming Construction Programme Challenge
  • how you will respond to the need, challenge or opportunity identified
  • how you will improve on the nearest current state-of-the-art identified
  • whether the innovation will focus on the application of existing technologies in new areas, the development of new technologies for existing areas or a totally disruptive approach
  • the freedom you have to operate
  • how this project fits with your current product, service lines or offerings
  • how it will make you more competitive
  • the nature of the outputs you expect from the project (for example, report, demonstrator, know-how, new process, product or service design) and how these will help you to target the need, challenge or opportunity identified

You can submit a single appendix as a PDF no larger than 1MB and up to 2 pages long to support your answer. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 3: Team and resources

Who is in the project team and what are their roles?

Describe or explain:

  • the roles, skills and experience of all members of the project team that are relevant to the approach you will be taking
  • the resources, equipment and facilities needed for the project and how you will access them
  • the details of any vital external parties, including sub-contractors, who you will need to work with to successfully carry out the project
  • any gaps in the team that will need to be filled

You can submit a single appendix as a PDF no larger than 1MB and up to 4 pages long to support your answer. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 4: Market awareness

What does the market you are targeting look like?

Describe or explain:

  • the markets (domestic, international or both) you will be targeting in the project and any other potential markets
  • the size of the target markets for the project outcomes, backed up by references where available
  • the structure and dynamics of the target markets, including customer segmentation, together with predicted growth rates within clear timeframes
  • the target markets’ main supply or value chains and business models, and any barriers to entry that exist
  • the current UK position in targeting these markets
  • the size and main features of any other markets not already listed

If your project is highly innovative, where the market may be unexplored, describe or explain:

  • what the market’s size might to be
  • how your project will try to explore the market’s potential

Question 5: Outcomes and route to market

How are you going to grow your business and increase your productivity into the long term as a result of the project?

Describe or explain:

  • your current position in the markets and supply or value chains outlined, and whether you will be extending or establishing your market position
  • your target customers or end users, and the value to them, for example, why would they use or buy it?
  • your route to market
  • how you are going to profit from the innovation (increased revenues or cost reduction)
  • how the innovation will affect your productivity and growth, in both the short and the long term
  • how you will protect and exploit the outputs of the project, for example through know-how, patenting, designs or changes to your business model
  • your strategy for targeting the other markets you have identified during or after the project

If there is any research organisation activity in the project, describe:

  • your plans to spread the project’s research outputs over a reasonable timescale
  • how you expect to use the results generated from the project in further research activities

Question 6: Wider impacts

What impact might this project have outside the project team?

Describe, and where possible measure:

  • the economic benefits from the project to external parties, including customers, others in the supply chain, broader industry and the UK economy, such as productivity increases and import substitution
  • any expected impact on government priorities
  • any expected environmental impacts, either positive or negative
  • any expected regional impacts of the project

Describe any expected social impacts, either positive or negative on, for example:

  • quality of life
  • social inclusion or exclusion
  • jobs, such as safeguarding, creating, changing or displacing them
  • education
  • public empowerment
  • health and safety
  • regulations
  • diversity

Question 7: Project management

Describe or explain:

  • the main work packages of the project, indicating the relevant research category, the lead partner assigned to each and the total cost of each one
  • your approach to project management, identifying any major tools and mechanisms that will be used for a successful and innovative project outcome.
  • the management reporting lines
  • your project plan in enough detail to identify any links or dependencies between work packages or milestones

You can upload a project plan or Gantt chart as an appendix in PDF format no larger than 1MB and up to 2 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 8: Risks

What are the main risks for this project?

Describe or explain:

  • the main risks and uncertainties of the project, including the technical, commercial, managerial and environmental risks, providing a risk register if appropriate
  • how these risks will be mitigated
  • any project inputs that are critical to completion, such as resources, expertise, data sets
  • any output likely to be subject to regulatory requirements, certification, ethical issues and so on, and how you will manage this

You can upload a risk register as an appendix in PDF format no larger than 1MB and up to 2 pages long. The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 9: Added value

Describe the impact that an injection of public funding would have on this project.

Describe or explain:

  • if this project could go ahead in any form without public funding and if so, the difference the public funding would make, such as faster to market, more partners and reduced risk
  • the likely impact of the project on the businesses of the partners involved
  • why you are not able to wholly fund the project from your own resources or other forms of private-sector funding, and what would happen if the application is unsuccessful
  • how this project would change the nature of R&D activity the partners would undertake, and the related spend

Question 10: Costs and value for money

How much will the project cost and how does it represent value for money for the team and the taxpayer?

Describe or explain:

  • the total project cost and the grant being requested in terms of the project goals
  • how the partners will finance their contributions to the project
  • how this project represents value for money for you and the taxpayer and how it compares to what you would spend your money on otherwise?
  • the balance of costs and grant across the project partners
  • any sub-contractor costs and why they are critical to the project

3. Finances

The finances section asks each organisation in your project to complete their own project costs, organisational details and funding details. Academics will need to complete and upload a Je-S form. For full details on what costs you can claim please see our project costs guidance.

Background and further information

The challenge is to eliminate the productivity gap in construction and help speed up the building of safer, healthier and more affordable places to live and learn that use dramatically less energy. To achieve this the programme will invest £170 million over 4 years, which will be more than matched by industry funding. This will:

  • create a digitally driven construction sector
  • introduce a ‘design for manufacture and assembly’ approach to buildings that enables higher quality, faster delivery and more ready integration of active components and technologies

This ISCF Transforming Construction Challenge (part of the Clean Growth Grand Challenge in the Industrial Strategy) brings together the construction, manufacturing, energy and digital sectors. It will tackle the 3 main elements of the lifecycle costs of buildings in more a co-ordinated way than previous interventions.

Analysis commissioned by the Construction Leadership Council (CLC) suggests that significant productivity gains could be achieved through:

  • the adoption of digital and manufacturing technologies
  • the transition to new collaborative business models
  • better integrated supply chain management practices, which will create skilled jobs in manufacturing and digital design

The programme is strongly linked to the Construction Sector Deal and the Infrastructure and Project Authority’s (IPA) Transforming Infrastructure Performance strategy (TIP).

Extra help

If you want help to find a project collaborator, contact the Knowledge Transfer Network.

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

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