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Who is most likely to win ?

Based on our experience, some industries have a higher likelihood of success than others. While it may be disappointing, this is the reality of life. The UK government released a white paper in 2018 called The UK Government Grand Challenge Areas and the Industrial Strategy. Since then, there have been changes in the UK’s economic and business environment. Although creating and supporting jobs continues to be a significant focus, driving growth in existing, new, and emerging industries is also a priority. For this reason, we have transformed the Industrial Strategy into our Plan for Growth and related strategies. While the Plan for Growth concentrates on job creation, the UKRI Challenge Fund is essentially an updated version of the Government Grand Challenge Areas and the Industrial Strategy. We have created an easy guide and list below to provide information from these strategies and the recent Innovate UK innovation competitions we have experienced in the funded sectors.

UKRI Challenge Fund

The Grand Challenges (withdrawn on 1 March 2023) now UKRI Challenge Fund. The challenges are made up of 23 challenges, covering the 4 challenge themes:


  1. Clean growth
  2. Ageing society
  3. Future of mobility
  4. Artificial intelligence and data economy

Clean Growth

Industrial decarbonization – Reducing the carbon footprint of heavy and energy intensive industries through low-carbon technologies


Low-cost nuclear – Developing a compact, standardised nuclear power station product based around a small modular reactor


Made smarter innovation – Developing new digital technologies for a flexible, more productive and sustainable manufacturing sector


Prospering from the energy revolution – Accelerating innovation in smart local energy systems, from energy storage to data management. Moving to a low-carbon, more resource-efficient economy is good for the UK, and for its people – helping to improve air quality and offering cheaper, more convenient access to clean energy. This challenge will invest £102.5 million to develop smart, clean energy systems and localised approaches that join up energy supply, storage and use with heat and transport. It will also allow the UK to pursue global opportunities, with an estimated $2 trillion set to be invested in energy infrastructure worldwide every year.


Smart sustainable plastic packaging – Developing more sustainable plastic packaging materials and designs, and enabling new recycling processes


Transforming construction – Accelerating the shift towards a manufacturing-based approach, digital technologies, and value-based outcomes. The UK needs more affordable places for people to live and work that are safe, healthy and energy efficient. To create better buildings and deliver the £650 billion worth of projects planned under the national infrastructure programme, the construction industry needs to become more productive, competitive and sustainable. This challenge will invest £170 million – matched by £250 million from industry – to modernise construction processes and techniques, such as using digital design and standardised, modular components for offsite manufacture.


Transforming food production – Supporting new ways to produce resilient and sustainable food, reducing carbon emissions, waste and pollution. The growing global population will need 60% more food by 2050 – calling for more resilient, healthier, sustainable sources and management practices. Through an up to £90 million investment, this challenge will support new developments in precision agriculture and food production, building on UK strengths of understanding in crops, livestock and environmental sciences. It will create more efficient, sustainable food supplies that are less vulnerable to shocks, such as disease outbreaks and extreme weather.


Transforming foundation industries – Developing technology to reduce energy and resource use within the foundation industries

Ageing society

Accelerating detection of disease – Building a national resource of volunteers to support the development of new diagnostic tools and technologies


Healthy ageing – Developing products and services that help people remain independent and active into older age. Our population is ageing – with a third of children now expected to live to be 100-years-old. The healthy ageing challenge will invest up to £98 million to help people to live active, independent and happy lives as they age. It will allow them to stay in their homes for longer and provide more effective care options when this is needed.


Data to early diagnosis and precision medicine – Supporting the development of precision medicine for improved early diagnosis and treatment. Identifying a disease early is usually the best way to manage and minimise its effect – but some can take years to present symptoms. As we come to better understand the characteristics of disease, health professionals will be supported to diagnose patients earlier and select the right treatment first time. The challenge will invest up to £210 million to combine research data and evidence from the NHS to create new and improved ways of identifying disease and treatment pathways.

Future of mobility

Driving the electric revolution – Investing in electrification technologies including power electronics, electric machines and drives.


Future flight – Developing greener ways to fly by advancing electric and autonomous flight technologies.


Faraday battery challenge – Investing in research, innovation and facilities to develop battery technologies. More and more people are making the switch to fully electric and zero emission vehicles. As petrol and diesel cars come to be phased out this market is only going to grow – to an estimated £5 billion in the UK and £50 billion in Europe by 2025. The £246 million Faraday battery challenge will invest in research and innovation projects and establish new facilities in battery production, use and recycling. These batteries will be more cost-effective, durable and lightweight than ever before, with improvements to their performance, safety and sustainability. Their use will go beyond the automotive sector, crossing over into other applications within the low carbon, electrified economy.


National Satellite Test Facility – Supporting the assembly, integration and testing of space payloads and satellites. With up to 10,000 satellites due to be launched into orbit by 2025, there’s a market for high-performance launch technologies and testing capabilities to meet this ambition. A £99 million investment will help to establish a National Satellite Test Facility. The facility will support the assembly and delivery of next-generation satellites, including bigger, more technologically-advanced systems.


Robots for a safer world – Investing in advanced robotics and autonomous systems to create a safer working world. Industries such as nuclear, offshore energy, deep mining and space conduct their activities in extreme and challenging environments. Now, with advances in robotics and artificial intelligence, there’s an opportunity to make greater use of unmanned systems – and create work for people that is safer, leaner, and improves quality of life. The up to £93 million challenge will develop advanced robotics that remove people from potentially harmful operations and improve productivity, resilience and delivery of public services and infrastructure.


Self-driving vehicles – Developing next-generation artificial intelligence and control systems for driverless cars. Driverless car technology is advancing to make them a safe, viable option for roads. It is a growing sector predicted to be worth £63 billion by 2035. This challenge has so far announced £38 million of funding to test and develop the AI and control systems for these vehicles.

Artificial intelligence and data economy

Audience of the future – Developing new immersive technologies for audiences, such as virtual, augmented and mixed reality. How we experience the world is changing. People will soon be able to become totally immersed in their favourite films, sports and entertainment. The audience of the future challenge will support the UK’s best creatives to tell the most ground-breaking stories. Using virtual, augmented and mixed reality technologies, they will create truly immersive experiences that capture the public’s imagination. It will invest up to £33 million to create and test new immersive experiences, improve the production of high-quality content and develop new talent.


Commercialising quantum technologies – Supporting new products and technologies, across sectors, based on advances in quantum science. Quantum technology is still at an early stage – but there’s potential for it to transform industries such as automotive, cyber security, defence, healthcare, infrastructure and telecommunications. The challenge is a £20 million ‘pioneer’ fund to translate quantum science into a whole new set of products and devices, including sensors, consumer electronics and digital services, with enhanced capabilities.


Creative industries clusters – Growing the UK creative economy by supporting clusters of creative research and development. Creative industries – such as film, music, video games and architecture – are among the largest and fastest-growing in the UK, employing more than 2 million people and enriching the lives of the countless others that experience them. Up to £39 million from government is being matched by funding from academia and industry to design new creative products and services, develop commercial partnerships and embed highly-skilled jobs that build for the future. Digital security by design – Investing in projects that help the UK digital computing infrastructure to become more secure.


Next generation services – Supporting the service industries to use technologies such as AI and data analytics for next generation services. Financial and professional services – including accountancy, insurance and legal services – employ around 2.2 million in the UK to a value of £190 billion. Through £20 million of ‘pioneer’ funding, the next-generation services challenge will develop and embed technologies including artificial intelligence and data analytics to make these more efficient and productive. This should lead to better services for customer and clients, and a more competitive sector.

25 Areas of Interest to Innovate UK - UKRI (in no order)

  1. Neuroscience, mental Health and development of digital data-enabled tools in precision medicine using a multi modal approach
  2. AI/ML
  3. Farming improve productivity, sustainability, resilience using automation and robotics to move the agricultural sector to net zero
  4. Nutrition and food production, efficient, low-emission food production systems. Including alternative proteins and Total Controlled Environment Agriculture. Innovative solutions to address significant nutrition challenges
  5. Environment and Climate
  6. Compound Semiconductor
  7. Creative Economy
  8. Block Chain / Crypto Currencies
  9. Quantum & Edge Computing
  10. Solutions to identify & halt sharing of child sexual images
  11. Overdose detection, response and intervention solutions
  12. FinTech / EdTech
  13. Healthcare (from UKRI) Medicine isn’t one size fits all. Patients with the same disease or condition can respond differently to treatment. The £181 million challenge will develop and manufacture new medicines, vaccines, advanced therapies and other healthcare products, including digital technologies. It will speed up the time it takes to get the right treatment to the individual, while growing life sciences manufacturing in the UK, which delivers almost 9% of our manufacturing GVA.
  14. Engineering Biology (EngBio) technologies, processes, products and services
  15. Crime and Cyber security
  16. Intracellular drug delivery formulations
  17. Robotics and automation
  18. Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR)
  19. Plastics recycling, home collection and sorting
  20. Hydrogen Fuel Cell Inc. storage and distribution solutions
  21. Driverless technology
  22. CO2 reduction / sustainability
  23. Battery new technology & increased longevity
  24. R&D projects that help accelerate the UK towards a net zero automotive future
  25. Manufacturing and future materials (from UKRI) Industries including aerospace and automotive are calling for more affordable, light-weight, composite materials for their vehicles and component parts. This challenge – with up to £26 million funding announced to date – will invest in industry and research to develop the next generation of materials for advanced manufacturing.

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