Funding competition Manufacturing Made Smarter Innovation Hub – Digital Supply Chain EoI

UK registered businesses and research organisations can apply for up to £10 million from ISCF to set up and run a digital supply chain innovation hub

This competition is now closed.

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Competition sections


Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, will invest up to £10 million to set up and manage a digital supply chain innovation hub.

The Digital Supply Chain Innovation Hub should focus on manufacturing supply chains, looking to digitally optimise and integrate these supply chains from end to end.

This is the expression of interest for a potential 2-stage competition.

In applying to this competition, you are entering into a competitive process. This competition closes at 11am UK time on the deadline stated.

Funding type


Project size

Grant funding of up to £10 million is available in the full stage competition to organisations to set up and run a digital supply chain innovation hub over the 4 years of the hub’s lifetime.

Who can apply

Your project

Your project must:

  • not exceed the maximum grant request of up to £10 million
  • start by 1 June 2021
  • end on 31 March 2025

Lead organisation

To lead a project or work alone your organisation must:

  • be a UK registered business of any size, research organisation, charity, not-for-profit, public sector organisation, academic institution or research and technology organisation (RTO)
  • carry out its project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK
  • have experience and insights into the use of digital technologies for smart manufacturing
  • be able to manage a complex network of demonstration, living lab and test bed facilities
  • manage access to relevant capabilities within research organisations, regulatory bodies, and other sources of expertise for smart manufacturing

Project team

To collaborate with the lead, your organisation must:

  • be a UK registered business, academic institution, charity, not-for-profit, public sector organisation or research and technology organisation (RTO)
  • carry out its project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK

If collaborative, the lead and at least one other organisation must claim funding by entering their costs during the application.

Each partner organisation must be invited into the Innovation Funding Service by the lead to collaborate on a project. Once accepted, partners will be asked to login or to create an account and enter their own project costs into the Innovation Funding Service.

Your project can include partners that do not receive any of this competition’s funding, for example non-UK businesses. Their costs will count towards the total eligible project costs.


Subcontractors are allowed in this competition and must be selected through a participant’s normal procurement process. Subcontractors can be from anywhere in the UK. If an overseas subcontractor is selected, a case must be made as to why no UK-based subcontractor can be used.

Number of applications

When an organisation leads on an application it can collaborate in a further 2 applications.

If a business is not leading any application, it can collaborate in up to 3 applications.

If any other type of organisation is not leading any application, it can collaborate in any number of applications.

Previous applications

You cannot use a previously submitted application to apply for this competition.

We will not award you funding if you have:

State aid

We are offering grant funding of up to £10 million for the full stage competition. If your application is successful at the EOI stage, you will be invited to apply to the full stage competition.

All funding rules will be clearly outlined at the full stage competition and all applications will be required to comply with them.

Your eligibility will be assessed at the full stage competition in line with the requirements of the scope of the competition.


We have allocated up to £10 million in total to fund the digital supply chain innovation hub, which will include:

  • overall management of the hub
  • setting up test beds, living labs and other types of development environments
  • funding projects using hub facilities and accessing capabilities identified by the hub

The innovation hub should bring in at least £10 million of co-investment from hub partners and users.

Your proposal

This competition is for expressions of interest in the digital supply chain innovation hub management. Successful applicants will be invited to apply to the full stage competition. UKRI reserves the right to not continue to full proposal stage if no acceptable EoI application is received.

We are aiming to develop an Innovation Hub which furthers the goals of the Manufacturing Made Smarter Challenge and the national Made Smarter movement. The innovation hub will develop a national network or cluster of existing facilities. These will be accessible by industry to develop, demonstrate and test digital supply chain solutions. Aiding the innovation and deployment of innovative digital systems.

Your expression of interest should explain how you would build and manage the hub to:

  • gain an understanding of industry problems through greater use of digital tools for the integration and optimisation of end-to-end manufacturing supply chains
  • develop a set of digital solution use cases which could address these problems
  • give access to existing facilities and capabilities in the UK for the development and testing of novel solutions
  • work for all stakeholders including manufacturing companies and technology providers, irrespective of size
  • give support for all manufacturing sectors and drive the development of cross sector collaboration

  • supply access to specialist skills, which may include research centres, universities, research and technology organisations, standards agencies, regulatory bodies and other organisations with relevant capabilities and expertise
  • monitor and evaluate its effectiveness
  • deliver a periodical revision of its operation to achieve the required objectives of the hub

We welcome ideas for integrating the hub with existing networks and centres so together they can enhance the benefits to the UK.

If your application is successful, you will also be expected to connect with the other activities that are part of the MMS Challenge and other relevant ISCF challenges.

Projects we will not fund

We are not funding:

  • capital expenditure on buildings
  • expenditure on facilities or equipment that replicate already existing and accessible facilities in the UK

23 November 2020
Competition opens
25 November 2020
Online briefing event: view here
1 December 2020
Concepts and collaboration building workshop 10am: register here
13 January 2021 11:00am
Competition closes
15 February 2021
Launch of full stage competition
31 March 2021
Full stage competition closes

Before you start

You must read the guidance on applying for a competition on the Innovation Funding Service before you start.

Innovate UK is unable to award grant funding to organisations meeting the condition known as undertakings in difficulty.

What we ask you

The application is split into 2 sections:

  1. Project details.
  2. Application questions.

1. Project details

This section provides background for the assessors and is not scored.

Application team

Decide which organisations will work with you on the project. Invite people from those organisations to help complete the application.

Application details

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

Equality, diversity and inclusion

We collect and report on equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) data to address under-representation in business innovation and ensure equality, diversity and inclusion across all our activities.

You must complete this EDI survey and then select yes in the application question. The survey will ask you questions on your gender, age, ethnicity and disability status. You will always have the option to ‘prefer not to say’ if you do not feel comfortable sharing this information.

This section provides background for the assessors and is not scored.

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.


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

Do not include any website addresses (URLs) in your answers.

Question 1: Your approach and benefits (400 words)

What is your vision for the hub and what it can deliver in terms of features, capabilities and benefits?

Explain how the hub will:

  • support the goal of harnessing the transformative power of industrial digital technologies (IDTs)
  • meet the objectives of the Manufacturing Made Smarter (MMS) challenge
  • ensure that it is open and available to all stakeholders, including manufacturers and technology providers irrespective of size, and academic organisations
  • support a wide range of industrial digital technologies and the fusion of these to create innovative manufacturing solutions
  • be designed to encourage collaboration between large and small technology providers and manufacturers, academic and commercial organisations
  • attract engagement from a wide spectrum of manufacturing sectors
  • ensure that it can develop and encourage cross sector collaboration
  • run a funding programme to provide access to the hub’s facilities and capabilities to all stakeholders
  • connect with the other activities that are part of the MMS Challenge including research centres, technology accelerators, standards programme and the international programme

Question 2: Market awareness (400 words)

Describe why you think the UK needs this hub and how it will be different to other activities.

Describe or explain:

  • the key challenges and opportunities the hub will address for digital manufacturing and supply chains across the sectors?

What capability can technology providers in the UK bring to find solutions to those challenges?

  • how the hub will aid stakeholders to overcome challenges in moving towards the future vision for the manufacturing and technology sectors
  • what the hub will enable companies to do, that they are not able to do already?
  • your strategy for making this need, and your proposed solution, clear to our intended stakeholders and the wider public
  • how you propose to attract and communicate with potential users of the hub
  • the demand you expect there to be, and how will you manage any over or under demand?

Question 3: Impact (400 words)

Explain how you expect the hub’s activities will lead to outputs such as:

  • increasing the number of digital solutions available to manufacturing
  • growing the number of UK digital solution providers
  • increasing the amount of cross-sector collaboration within UK manufacturing
  • increasing the productivity, flexibility, resilience, and sustainability of UK manufacturing companies
  • increasing UK manufacturing exports

How will you monitor and measure the impact of the hub?

Question 4: Hub management (400 words)

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

We expect the innovation hub to interact with the Manufacturing Made Smarter (MMS) challenge team and connect and liaise with other MMS and ISCF challenge activities.

Describe or explain:

  • how the hub management will develop and maintain an understanding of industry needs and challenges
  • how you will use this to keep the hub relevant to changing needs in the UK manufacturing sectors
  • how you will manage and monitor progress, including both the set-up phase and running projects using hub facilities
  • the metrics you intend to monitor (such as spend, usage rate, achievement of benefits)
  • how the management team will be kept informed of progress across all hub spokes or clusters
  • how concerns or issues will be highlighted early to all affected stakeholders and who these stakeholders will be
  • how the finances will be managed and planned for unexpected events

Question 5: Implementation, Project management and timeline (400 words)

Describe the steps you propose to take to establish the hub.

Describe or explain:

  • how the project will achieve effective project team integration between consortium members and other project delivery partners
  • the activities you plan to undertake

You can submit a project plan or Gantt chart outlining the steps required to set the hub up and to have it fully running as an appendix. It must be a PDF, up to 2 A4 pages long and no larger than 10MB in size . The font must be legible at 100% zoom.

Question 6: Risks (400 words)

What are the risks to project success and what is your strategy to manage the risk?

Describe or explain:

  • the main risks and uncertainties of the project
  • how these risks would be mitigated and provide evidence of your ability to do this
  • any legal agreements or consents that need to be put in place to enable the project to be undertaken. What risks will this introduce and how will you manage these?
  • if there are any security implications of the hub programme, and if so, how will you manage these?
  • how will you deal with IP ownership issues?
  • how users retain all IP related to the developments?

Question 7: Consortia team skills, experience and capabilities (400 words)

What are the critical skills and capabilities required to effectively deliver your vision? How will you ensure the consortium members have the right skills, knowledge and experience to deliver the project and its identified benefits?

Describe or explain:

  • the track record of the organisations involved in your bid in delivering successful research, innovation, and demonstration projects
  • how you have considered diversity and inclusion in your project
  • how will you connect with other facilities as and when needed, for example: technology experts, solution providers

Question 8: Financial commitment (400 words)

What is the financial commitment required for the project?

Describe or explain:

  • the total project costs anticipated for this project over its lifetime?
  • your expected operational and maintenance costs?
  • the amount of funding do you anticipate will be required to fund user projects on the hub’s facilities?
  • the expected split between grant and industry investment for the different types of expenditure
  • how funding from ISCF adds value
  • whether this project can take place without government financial support?
  • the source of any co-funding from industry and partners and any direct follow-on funding from industry
  • your vision on how this hub may become a self-sustaining centre beyond the timeline of this competition’s funding
  • how you will be able to achieve an overall balance of at least 50% co-investment funding from industry and other collaborators and users

Question 9: Interaction with UK networks (400 words)

An important part of the hub’s function is developing and connecting a vibrant ecosystem of UK's industry and technology developers. It will do this by working with relevant research organisations, standards agencies, regulatory bodies and other relevant organisations and networks.

Describe or explain:

  • how you will identify and connect with these organisations to develop this ecosystem
  • how you will connect with the other activities in the MMS Challenge to enhance the value of the whole challenge programme
  • how the project team will use its contacts and networks to build the relationships required to make this ecosystem work?
  • how will this impact on the resources and capabilities that the hub can offer to its users?
  • how will this impact on the value of the hub in delivering something that is not available now?

Ideas for integrating the hub with existing networks and centres to enhance the benefits to the UK together are welcome.

Text update: 13 Jan 2021. We have added an additional question to capture project partners locations

Question 10: Project partners location (not scored)

Where are the organisations within your project team registered?

What should you include?

Please name each organisation along with its full registered address. If you are working with an academic institution this doesn’t need to be included.

Background and further information

This will be one of 2 innovation hubs to be set up by the ISCF Manufacturing Made Smarter (MMS) challenge to enable a dramatic transformation of UK Manufacturing through the use of digital technologies, increasing UK productivity growth, flexibility, resilience and sustainability.

The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund is UKRI’s flagship challenge-led innovation programme. The Manufacturing Made Smarter ISCF challenge is part of this programme.

Concepts and collaboration building workshop

This optional workshop will enable attendees to learn more about the concepts underlying the Innovation Hub strategy. The workshop will cover:

  • use of test beds
  • living labs and other development environments to stimulate innovation
  • learnings gained through the test bed pilots currently running

The workshop also provides an opportunity for participants to identify and meet with potential consortia partners.

Contact us

If you need more information about how to apply email or call 0300 321 4357.

Our phone lines are open from 9am to 11:30am and 2pm to 4:30pm, Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays).

Innovate UK is committed to making support for applicants accessible to everyone.

We can provide help for applicants who face barriers when making an application. This might be as a result of a disability, neurodiversity or anything else that makes it difficult to use our services. We can also give help and make other reasonable adjustments for you if your application is successful.

If you think you need more support, it is important that you contact our Customer Support Service as early as possible during your application process. You should aim to contact us no later than 10 working days before the competition closing date.

Finding a project partner

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

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