Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund competitions for immersive tech

Posted on: 27/06/2018

Immerse UK’s Fiona Kilkelly shares her overview of the current round of ISCF competitions, and highlights opportunities for immersive tech businesses.


There has been a flurry of activity over the last two months relating to the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF). We have had a wave of announcements, briefing events and competition launches which are difficult to keep track of, particularly when trying to identify which challenge is relevant to you.

I have tried to simplify that job for the immersive tech sector by filtering through and consolidating the ISCF challenges open already and those in the pipeline that you should take a look at, as they all have immersive tech within their scope.

This is a major opportunity for UK immersive tech businesses. Our recently published Immersive Economy Report illustrates how immersive tech is transforming lives and the way we do business across almost every industry. Immersive businesses are well placed to maximise and further exploit opportunities to drive growth and create economic and social value.  The R&D funds available through ISCF can enable you to achieve this.

The Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) is working with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) on each of the challenges listed below. I have included links and contacts for each challenge if you need more information.


1. Audience of the Future

The £33m ISCF Audience of the Future Challenge Fund can potentially offer fantastic support to innovators, researchers, creators and technologists to create new products and services by adopting, exploiting and developing immersive technologies. The first wave of activity launched in May 2018, including the £16m Audience of the Future Demonstrators programme and the £1m Design Foundations Competition.

Demonstrators Programme

This competition is designed to explore the immersive future of the Creative Industries by supporting new large-scale immersive experiences in key sectors of the creative Industries and testing them with a mass audience.

Key dates: opened Monday 21 May 2018 | closes Wednesday 1 August 2018

Design Foundations Competition

Also included is the launch of a £1m early-stage Audience of the Future: Design Foundations competition, focused on understanding the future user, delivering vital insight into audience perceptions and behaviours.

Key dates: opened Monday 21 May 2018 | closes Wednesday 4 July 2018.

For more information and resources: for the Demonstrators and Design Foundations can be found on our ISCF Audience of the Future resources page

For any queries please contact: Fiona Kilkelly via email at


2. Robotics and AI in Extreme Environments

Innovate UK, as part of UK Research and Innovation, will invest up to £15 million from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) in business led collaborations to develop robotic and artificial intelligence systems that remove humans from infrastructure inspection, maintenance and repair in extreme environments.

The goal is to create robotics and artificial intelligence (RAI) technologies and systems that make unmanned operation the standard approach in areas such as off-shore energy and space with the aim of taking humans out of dangerous, harsh or extreme environments.

In this competition individuals can apply, on behalf of an organisation, to take part in a 5-day residential workshop called the Innovation Lab from 10 to 14 September 2018. The attendees will work together to develop collaborative proposals for research and innovation projects.

Following the Innovation Lab there will be 3 weeks for the emergent collaborations to finalise proposals prior to formal submission and assessment. Final projects are expected to start in January 2019 and be completed prior to March 2021.

Potential application of Immersive: Remote operation and training through AR/VR in remote or hazardous environments.

For any queries please contact: Phil Williams, Knowledge Transfer Manager, Robotics and AI, at


3. Next Generation Services

UK Research and Innovation will invest up to £12 million in innovation projects to support the application of artificial intelligence (AI) and data technologies in the UK service sector. Projects should aim to transform three target sectors: accountancy, insurance and legal services, There are two strands to this competition, for large and small projects:

·       Transforming accountancy, insurance and legal services with AI and data competition (large consortia strand). Find out more by visiting the competition overview on the Innovation Funding Service website.

·       Transforming accountancy, insurance and legal services with AI and data competition (small projects strand). Find out more by visiting the competition overview on the Innovation Funding Service website.

Key dates: both competitions opened Monday 18 June 2018 and close Wednesday 15 August 2018 12:00pm.

Potential application of Immersive: Combining artificial intelligence with virtual reality could be in scope. However, the development costs would need to mostly go towards the Data/AI part of the project. A useful opportunity for immersive companies developing applications in these sectors and looking to build partnerships with AI experts/businesses.

For any queries please contact: Astrid Ayel, Knowledge Transfer Manager, Fintech and Blockchain, at


4. Data to Early Diagnosis and Precision Medicine

As part of the ISCF to improve early diagnosis and precision medicine, UKRI will invest up to £50 million to establish a network of 5-6 centres of excellence in digital pathology and/or medical imaging, including radiology. The centres must use digital systems and artificial intelligence (AI) to improve diagnosis and deliver precision treatments. Find out more by visiting the Innovation Funding Service website.

Key dates: opened Wednesday 6 June 2018 and closes Wednesday 1 August 2018 12:00pm.

Potential application of Immersive: Using 3D immersive visualisation in medical imaging. Use of AR/VR and AI to improve diagnosis and deliver precision treatments.

For any queries please contact: Giulia Boselli, Knowledge Transfer Manager, Precision Medicine, at


5. Prospering from the Energy Revolution

Smart energy systems can significantly improve efficiency by intelligently linking energy supply, storage and use, as well as heating and transport. For consumers, they will support cleaner and cheaper energy. This challenge will invest £102.5 million in new local energy systems and approaches, with two current competitions addressing:

·       Local smart energy system demonstrators. £40m is being invested in up to three world-leading practical smart energy systems demonstrators. These will include new business models that intelligently link supply, storage and demand patterns across power, heating and transport. Find out more by visiting the Innovation Funding Service website.

·       Local smart energy system design projects. Up to £1.5 million will fund revolutionary concept and design studies for new, smarter approaches to local energy. These approaches must aim to provide cleaner, cheaper energy services for UK consumers in the 2020s while helping make communities more prosperous and resilient. Find out more by visiting the Innovation Funding Service website.

Key dates: both competitions are now open, and close Wednesday 25 July 2018 at 12:00pm.

Potential application of Immersive: Ways in which AR / VR can be used to improve the way energy is managed, education and awareness, and practical application.

For any queries please contact: Jenni McDonnell, Knowledge Transfer Manager, Sustainable Energy, at


6. Healthy Ageing

The Healthy Ageing Grand Challenge is supported by the ISCF, which has set aside £98 million to drive development of new solutions that will help people live in their homes for longer and increase their independence and wellbeing.

From Wave 1 there has been significant funding of over £146m already directed to the Medicines Manufacturing sector, most recently the announcement of the £56 million medicines manufacturing Innovation centre. Find out more.

The KTN works closely with this sector and within the Medicines Manufacturing Industry Partnership on areas such as manufacturing innovation in biopharmaceuticals and cell and gene therapies. It is anticipated that there will be opportunities for Immersive technologies as these investments in UK capability develop new technologies and innovation. Find out more by visiting the Innovate UK website, the BIA website and the Innovation Funding Service website.

Key dates: competition dates are to be announced.

Potential application of Immersive: The use of immersive tech to support the ageing population has huge potential, extending into rehab and other health services.

For any queries please contact: Sarah Goulding, Specialist, Medicines and Advanced Therapies at


7. Transforming Construction

As part of the ISCF, there will be R&D investment to transform the UK construction industry and create affordable places to live and work that are safer, healthier and more energy efficient. Find out more: visit the Innovation Funding Service website.

Key dates: The first CR&D call will launch on Monday 23 July 2018; details will be out in early July.

Meanwhile, £1.25m is available for immersive learning projects in construction arising from needs identified by CITB and via the Construction Industry Sector Deal which is aligned with ISCF. Find out more: visit the i3p website.

Key dates: closes Monday 23 July at 5:00pm.

Potential application of Immersive: Pre-visualisation, planning, remote training.

For any queries please contact: Mark Wray, Knowledge Transfer Manager, Built Environment, at


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