Digitalisation of medicines manufacturing: Challenge Fund

Key Features

UK businesses can apply for a share of up to £8 million from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund for capital projects to improve medicines manufacturing.

Programme:     Innovate UK

Award:     Share of up to £8 million

Opens: 10th Sep 2018

Closes: 3rd Oct 2018

! This scheme is now closed


Innovate UK, as part of UK Research and Innovation, will invest up to £8 million in capital infrastructure innovation projects to enable existing medicines manufacturing operations to improve their scope, efficiency and effectiveness through the application of digitally-enabled technology.


This competition aims to encourage the application of digitally enabled methods or technologies to improve the manufacture of medicines for human use.

Your proposal must show how digital technology can integrate or enhance the steps in a manufacturing and supply chain.

If your project focuses on reducing waste or cost, you must be able to show an improvement of more than 25%.

You must show how your project will increase the productivity, competitiveness, capability or growth of at least one UK business involved in the project.

Your proposal can include approaches that have the potential to deliver, for example:

  • improved commercially viable manufacturing processes
  • methods for the reliable and robust scale-up of production of novel medicines
  • an increase in access to medicines that need just-in-time delivery, for example those that have a short shelf life
  • an increased yield of active ingredient or final product
  • a lower cost of production and goods
  • smoother integration of ordering and delivery, for example by co-ordination of prescription with production scheduling
  • a reduction in waste, for example by manufacturing to order rather than to stock

In this competition medicines that are in scope and can be exemplar products are limited to:

  • advanced therapy medicinal products
  • natural product medicines
  • nucleic acid-based drugs
  • prophylactic vaccines
  • protein or peptide biopharmaceuticals
  • small molecular-weight pharmaceuticals
  • virus and phage therapeutics

Priority will be given to proposals that:

  • can demonstrate well-established experience in GMP manufacture
  • can demonstrate they are able to co-fund
  • lower the cost of goods


To be eligible for funding you must:

  • be a UK-based business
  • carry out your project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK
  • work alone or in collaboration with other businesses

Single applicants must claim funding. If the project is collaborative, the lead and at least one other organisation must claim funding.

Any one business can 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.

This competition is open to any UK business that can demonstrate that the capital infrastructure grant they are requesting will:

  • improve the UK’s capacity and capability to manufacture small-molecule, biological, or cell or gene-based medicines or
  • significantly reduce the cost of manufacturing them or
  • significantly reduce the waste produced while manufacturing them

Any purchases made or retro-fitting undertaken must be used for medicines manufacturing-related activities at least 80% of the time.

Funding Costs

Your project’s total costs must be between £2 million and £4 million. Projects must start by 1 January 2019 and end by 31 March 2019. They can last between 3 and 4 months.

This competition is for funding to support capital infrastructure, including refurbishment and equipment. Support given for construction or upgrade of research infrastructures that perform economic activities will fall within the EU definition of state aid as ‘Investment aid for research infrastructure’ and is limited to 50% of the eligible project costs.


Innovate UK will not fund projects that cover:

  • incremental improvements in existing facilities that are unlikely to result in a significant change to costs, range of products, access to new markets or resource usage
  • discovery of medicines
  • non-commercial manufacturing applications
  • technology for manufacture of medicines for non-human use
  • enhancements to manufacture that do not rely primarily on digital technology
  • expansion of manufacturing within an academic or clinically-managed facility