Seventeen research and innovation projects across the UK will receive up to £50,000 each in government funding to respond to some of the world’s most pressing challenges, including climate change and medicine production.
The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) also announced that further long-term investment between £10m and £50m would be available to the successful projects later this year in the second round of UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) flagship Strength in Places Fund.
The projects being funded include heating homes and businesses in Glasgow using energy from disused mines, digitising the UK construction sector so it is safer and more productive, researching quicker ways of diagnosing cancer, and accelerating building of large-scale offshore wind farms in the South West of England.
The government claimed the projects will “drive local economic growth, provide skills training and create high-value jobs”.
“We are backing our innovators with the support they need to turn great ideas into first-class industries, products and technologies,” said business secretary Alok Sharma.
“From virtual construction projects to extracting clean heat from disused mines, the pioneering projects we are funding today will help create jobs and boost skills across the UK as we continue to drive forward our economic recovery.”
The funding forms part of chancellor Rishi Sunak’s pledge to increase public spending in research and development (R&D) to £22bn by 2024/25, which builds on the government’s previous Industrial Strategy plans for the UK to be spending 2.4% of GDP on R&D by 2027.
Other funded projects include Trans-Mid, which will partner universities with transport technology businesses, as well as suppliers to vehicle, aerospace and rail sectors to produce new green products; and Creative City +, a consortium led by Manchester Metropolitan University that aims to enhance local productivity through stimulating R&D activity to increase the knowledge, skills and expertise in the creative industries.
Healthcare technology projects include Accelerated Medicines Design and Development, which looks to grow Kent’s life science sector through the development of a Medicines Design Studio in Sandwich; and a health data initiative in East London, led by Queen Mary University, that will create a space for academics, clinicians and industry to work together with the local hospitals to develop and test new treatments.
BEIS has previously supported a number of healthtech projects through its Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, set up in 2018 by then business secretary Greg Clark, making £16m available in July 2020 to six projects aiming to diagnose chronic and life threatening diseases earlier.
The initiative also follows a series of other technology-related projects BEIS is funding in various sectors of the economy, including the launch of a £24m package in July to fund nine agricultural technology projects aimed to cut costs and improve food production, as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
In April 2020, BEIS also provided an additional £40m of funding to new virtual reality (VR) projects through its Fast Start competition, which is being managed by innovation agency Innovate UK.
In the same month, Innovate UK was tasked by BEIS with reviewing proposals for using tech to deal with the coronavirus crisis, as part of a £20m fund to find ways of ensuring the continuation of work and productivity during the pandemic.