Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click on 'Find out more' to see our Cookie statement.

The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) is part of government’s Industrial Strategy, the long-term plan to raise productivity and earning power in the UK. (See below for an overview of the ISCF.)

The £4.7 billion fund is a core pillar in the government’s commitment to increase funding in research and development to strengthen UK science and business.  UK Research and Innovation, business and the public sector are being encouraged to work in partnership to address four grand challenges:

  • artificial intelligence and the data economy
  • clean growth
  • the future of mobility
  • meeting the needs of an ageing society

For our researchers to be best placed to benefit from both future funding and the potential collaborations involved in this, we want to support them to develop appropriate skills and experience. The National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) offers a great opportunity for young researchers to do this.

Through funding provided by EPSRC, MPLS division is offering a programme of courses tailored to the development of researcher’s commercial and economic awareness and understanding, advertised under the NPIF heading.

We are also offering departments the opportunity to bid for funding for their researchers to undertake training or programmes that allow them to develop these skills, through deeper collaboration and engagement with commercial and not for profit enterprises. The funding competition will open in Trinity term, with the deadline for the end of week 9.

Case study

One of the first round of NPIF awards went to the Department of Engineering Science to facilitate the organisation of a Summer School in which researchers will develop the know-how needed to exploit VR and AR technologies. They will learn to design and/or to develop content for VR and AR applications. More at

 Background information on The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF)

Collated notes from Innovate UK and Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy

The Industrial Strategy White Paper Nov 2017

Sets out five key ‘foundation’ themes:

  • Ideas, People, Infrastructure, Business environment, Places

Articulates four Grand Challenges:

  • Artificial intelligence, Clean growth, Ageing society, Future mobility

Identifies four Sector Deals already agreed for:

  • Life sciences, Construction, Artificial intelligence, Automotive sector

Plus more sector deals in progress with Creative Industries, Industrial digitalisation and Nuclear.

It also refers to Local Industrial Strategies and linkages with local economic clusters.

The ISCF challenges

The Industrial Strategy, launched in 2017 by the Business Secretary, sets out a series of grand challenges that the UK will need to address over the coming years, and the ISCF is there to make sure researchers and businesses work together to find the solutions, so that the UK economy reaps the commercial benefit.

This link will take you to more detail on each of the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund challenges, but briefly, the challenges are:

  1. From data to early diagnosis and precision medicine
  2. Healthy ageing
  3. Prospering from the energy revolution
  4. Transforming construction
  5. Transforming food production: from farm to fork
  6. Next generation services
  7. Audiences of the future
  8. Quantum technology
  9. Robotics and artificial intelligence in extreme environments
  10. Accelerating innovative healthcare and medicines
  11. Faraday Battery Challenge: clean and flexible energy
  12. Driverless vehicles
  13. Manufacturing and materials of the future
  14. Satellites and space technology

To date, the initial challenges have been based on a combination of priorities identified within government, the expertise of Innovate UK and Research Councils and through extensive external engagement. However, the White Paper made clear that there will be more ISCF challenges in the future, with an Expression of Interest phase starting in early 2018.

This is intrinsically linked to the government’s National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) to support innovation, upgrade the UK’s infrastructure and underpin the government’s Industrial Strategy.

The MPLS EPSRC NPIF call is for departments and CDTs to develop training that will facilitate as many researchers as possible in developing the skills they will need to work effectively and collaboratively with businesses to respond to these challenges.

Criteria for funding:

For each of these 6 criteria does the proposal rate High/Medium/Low?

  1. Is it explicitly within the scope of the Industrial Strategy?
  2. Is the proposed activity different from those currently offered?
  3. Are the proposed impacts sensible and realistic?
  4. Is there any evaluation plan and is it feasible and connected to the objectives of the proposed programme/ event?
  5. Does it represent value for money?
  6. Are there other sources of funding available to support the proposed activities?

A downloadable application form and an example of a successful application is available on request by emailing