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Manufacturing made smarter: Round 1 (fast start)


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

The Industry Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) will invest up to £30million 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.

Innovate UK welcome a variety of project types, from feasibility studies to large innovation and/or demonstrator projects.

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

Innovate UK will use a portfolio approach to achieve a balance between the 4 challenge themes, industrial sectors, project types and company sizes.

All projects must be ready to start on or before 1 December 2019, with a defined consortium agreement, agreed industry match funding and a project plan.

Projects must be business led and collaborative, with all consortia involving at least one SME. Projects led by SMEs are encouraged.

Open Date:


Close Date:


The aim of this competition is to fund projects focused on the use of industrial digital technologies (IDTs) to transform the productivity and agility of UK manufacturing. Projects must be able to achieve short-term impact and rapid technology development.

Innovate UK are looking to fund a portfolio of projects, across a variety of technologies, markets, technological maturities and research categories. Projects should involve a mix of digital technologies, rather than focus on one specific technology.

Projects can be led by any industry sector but must show they are applicable in at least two 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 two other sectors
  • How the project addresses the objectives below

The ISCF Manufacturing Made Smarter Challenge Programme objectives are:

  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 these four innovation themes:

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

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

Projects must be collaborative and involve an SME.

You must start your project on or before 1 December 2019 and end by 31 October 2021. They can last between 6 months and 2 years

To lead a project your organisation must:

  • Be a UK-based manufacturing business of any size
  • Collaborate with other businesses, research and technology organisation (RTO), 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 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.

A business can lead on one application and collaborate in a further two applications.

If a business is not leading an application, they can collaborate in up to three applications.

An RTO or academic institution can collaborate in any number of applications.

Innovate UK have allocated up to £ 30million to fund innovation projects in this competition.

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.

Innovate UK are not funding projects:

  • With only single sector applicability
  • That focus on a single IDT or other technology
  • Lasting longer than two years
  • Without an SME in the consortia
  • That will not be ready to start by 1 December 2019

Cresco Innovation works with companies to develop and implement innovation strategies. We help client companies identify opportunities to develop new products and services, and then create a package of support to ensure that the idea is turned into a commercial reality.

Our services include securing grants (as a team we have raised around £40million over three years), business planning, IP advice, access to finance and funders, project management and IP commercialisation support.

We regularly act as the interface with the funding bodies and help clients ensure that their projects are properly managed to ensure the best outcome for all.

Call to find out more

If you’d like to know more about this competition, please give us a call on 01509 261182 and one of our team will be delighted to help you access this funding opportunity for your business.