Manufacturing made smarter: round 1 (fast start)

Key Features

Up to £30 million is available for projects to transform the productivity and agility of UK manufacturing. Projects must have the potential for rapid impact.

Programme:     Innovate UK

Award:     Share of up to £30 million

Opens: 24th Jul 2019

Closes: 28th Aug 2019

! This scheme is now closed


The Industry Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) will invest up to £30 million in projects that focus on the use of industrial digital technologies (IDTs) to transform the productivity and agility of UK manufacturing. The challenge will support innovation and deployment of IDTs across industry sectors via cross-sector collaboration and learning.

Projects must be able to achieve rapid technology development and deployment.


Projects can be led by any industry sector but must show they are applicable in at least 2 other sectors. Larger projects should include partners from these sectors.

Applicable sectors include but are not limited to:

  • aerospace
  • automotive
  • chemicals
  • defence
  • digital
  • equipment and instrumentation
  • food and drink
  • pharma
  • oil and gas
  • space

You should outline:

  • how the project enables innovation and deployment of IDTs within manufacturing
  • how the output and learning from the project will be shared across at least 2 other sectors
  • how the project addresses the objectives below:
  1. Increase UK manufacturing sector investment in industrial digitalisation research and development (R&D) and adoption of new IDTs.
  2. Increase cross-sector collaboration between UK manufacturing sectors to drive the creation of common digital solutions.
  3. Increase number of digital technology companies providing solutions for manufacturing industries
  4. Increase number of collaborations between SMEs and larger, more established companies up the value chain.
  5. Increase UK manufacturing and digital manufacturing solution exports.

To be in scope, your project needs to fit within one of the 4 innovation themes outlined under specific themes.

Specific Themes

Projects must focus on at least one of the 4 innovation themes. Please choose the most applicable theme.

1. Smart connected factory, including:

  • use of real-time data to optimise operational efficiency
  • capture, analysis and visualisation of manufacturing processes

2. Connected and versatile supply chain, including:

  • information integration, communication, traceability and trust

3. Design, make, test, including:

  • transforming product design through digital technologies
  • virtual product testing, verification and validation, quality monitoring and inspection

4. Adaptable, flexible manufacturing operations and skills, including:

  • culture change and skills development to fully utilise technologies
  • human-centric automation and autonomy to enable expandable, flexible manufacturing systems


Projects must be collaborative and involve an SME.

To lead a project your organisation must:

  • be a UK based manufacturing business of any size
  • collaborate with other businesses, research organisations, public sector organisations or charities
  • involve at least one SME
  • carry out its project work in the UK
  • intend to exploit the results from or in the UK

To collaborate with the lead organisation you must:

  • be a UK based business, academic organisation, charity, 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
  • be invited to take part by the lead applicant

The lead and at least one other organisation must claim funding.

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.

Funding Costs

There has been up to £30 million allocated to fund innovation projects in this competition.

Your project’s total eligible costs must be between £250,000 and £10 million.

Total funding available to each project must not exceed 40% of the total eligible project costs. This is regardless of the individual partners’ grant claims.

Of the 40% you can get funding for feasibility and industrial research projects up to:

  • 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 35% if you are an SME
  • up to 25% if you are a large business

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 is shared between them.

You must start your project on or before 1 December 2019, with a defined consortium agreement, agreed industry match funding and a project plan.

Your project must end by 31 October 2021.

It can last between 6 months and 2 years.


Innovate UK are not funding projects:

  • with only single sector applicability
  • that focus on a single IDT or other technology
  • lasting longer than 2 years
  • without an SME in the consortia
  • that will not be ready to start by 1 December 2019