EV batteries and robotics first in line for BEIS £1bn innovation fund

The UK Government has unveiled a £1bn investment fund for cutting-edge technologies such as self-driving vehicles, artificial intelligence (AI) and batteries for clean and flexible energy storage.

The Government has worked with businesses and academics to identify core industrial challenges that can be overcome through additional funding

The Government has worked with businesses and academics to identify core industrial challenges that can be overcome through additional funding

The Autumn Statement initially outlined the development of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) – a new cross-disciplinary fund to support collaborations between business and the UK’s science base.

The four-year fund will be managed by Innovate UK and research councils, and will cover a broad range of technologies, from healthcare and medicine to satellites and space technology.

Confirming details of the ISCF on Friday (21 April), Business Secretary Greg Clark said: "As part of our Plan for Britain this Government wants to create a modern Industrial Strategy to support the key sectors of our economy and spread jobs, prosperity and opportunity around the whole country.

"Through the ISCF we will provide an enormous boost to our world-class research and development sector, to help turn brilliant British innovations into new businesses and good jobs."

Cutting-edge

The Challenge Fund includes a £246m investment to help businesses seize the benefits of battery storage, as well as a £93m pot for robotics and artificial intelligence (AI), focusing on deployment in extreme environments which occur in offshore and nuclear energy, space and deep mining.

Driverless car technology will receive £38m for collaborative R&D projects in the sector, as Government looks to work with industry to ensure the UK is at the forefront of the autonomous vehicle revolution. The Fund will provide funding for a £99m space satellite test facility, with a further £197m will set aside for drug discovery.  

Innovate UK has confirmed that it will be supporting a £10m first wave of projects through the ISCF in each of the areas with a number of smaller projects, starting in 2017 to 2018. A total of 35 projects have been selected for funding, with innovations in projects ranging from fast chargers for electric vehicles to snake-arm robots for use in the nuclear and aerospace industries.

As announced in the Spring Budget, the delivery of the ISCF will be supported by a £250m fund over the next 4 years to continue to build the pipeline of high-skilled research talent.

George Ogleby


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