Manufacturing Made Smarter Innovation Hub – Smart Factory

Key Features

UK registered businesses and research organisations can apply for up to £20 million from ISCF to set up and run a smart factory innovation hub. This is the expression of interest for a potential 2-stage competition.

Programme:     Innovate UK

Award:     Share of up to £20 million

Opens: 23rd Nov 2020

Closes: 13th Jan 2021

! This scheme is now closed


Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, will invest up to £20 million to set up and manage a smart factory hub.

The Smart Factory Innovation Hub should focus on manufacturing operations within the factory, looking to digitally enable and connect operations from the factory floor through to the enterprise level.


This competition is for expressions of interest in the smart factory 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.

This competition is 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 Smart Factory 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 in the manufacturing factory environment
  • 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 regardless 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

Innovate UK welcome ideas for integrating the hub with existing networks and centres that 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.

The aim of this competition is to harness technologies to optimise the design and execution of current and future factories.

Smart factory themes may include, but are not limited to:

  • digitalisation of manufacturing process and operations
  • use of robotics or additive manufacturing to accelerate processes
  • dynamic, real time production planning and scheduling
  • digital twins of facilities and processes to optimise future designs or current state
  • real time and in process quality monitoring and process optimisation
  • digital track and trace systems
  • asset management optimisation


This competition is not funding:

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


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

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

Your project must:

  • not exceed the maximum grant request of up to £20 million
  • start by 1 June 2021
  • end on 31 March 2025

Funding Costs

Up to £20 million in total has been allocated to fund the smart factory 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 £20 million of co-investment from hub partners and users.