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More R&D funding to develop projects set to boost local economic growth across the UK


More R&D funding to develop projects set to boost local economic growth across the UK

Seventeen new projects that will harness research and innovation excellence to boost local growth have been given early stage investment from UKRI’s Strength in Places Fund.

Covering a wide range of innovative sectors including healthcare, cyber security, construction and clean energy, the projects will also tackle some of the biggest challenges facing the UK today. The full list of projects is detailed below.

The 17 consortia are spread across the UK and include central and southern Scotland, south Wales, Northern Ireland, England’s north-west, north-east, south-east, south-west and the Midlands. Their projects will build on local strengths in industry and research to create significant economic impact, drive local growth, provide skills training and create high-value jobs.

This follows UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) announcement on 26 June 2020 of £186 million for seven R&D projects that will boost economic growth in their local areas.

The 17 new consortia will receive up to £50k each to develop full-stage bids for funding similar projects.

Each of the shortlisted projects has been awarded early-stage funding from the second wave of UKRI’s flagship Strength in Places Fund (SIPF). This funding will allow the consortia behind the projects, which involve universities, research organisations, businesses and local leadership, to develop their projects and apply for a further £10-50 million each from UKRI later this year.

Business Secretary, Alok Sharma, said:

"We are backing our innovators and with the support they need to turn great ideas into first-class industries, products and technologies.

"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."

UKRI Strength in Places Fund lead, David Sweeney, said:

"Strength in Places is a flagship fund for UKRI. We welcome the focus of the UK Government’s R&D Roadmap in unlocking economic opportunities around local economy in more places around the UK.

"I am delighted with the range of bids funded across the UK in the second wave of Strength in Places that will foster the local ecosystems to support innovation and sustained growth and strengthen collaboration between industry and our world-class research base."

Strength in Places Fund panel chair, Dame Kate Barker, said:

"I am privileged to continue to chair the Strength in Places Fund independent expert panel, as invited by UK Research and Innovation. After considering a large number of expressions of interest from across the regions and nations of the UK, the panel was pleased to recommend a strong set of bids for early-stage funding.

"The bids provide further evidence of excellent research that meets business needs across the whole of the UK. They demonstrate great potential for industrial collaboration by bringing together consortia of business, research organisations and local leadership organisations to contribute to increased growth and productivity in areas of local economic activity."

Announced in the modern Industrial Strategy in November 2017, the £236 million SIPF benefits all nations and regions of the UK by enabling them to tap into the world-class research and innovation capability that is spread right across the country.

It is a key part of how UKRI, the UK’s research and innovation funding agency, has responded to the importance of ‘place’ as part of the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda and directs its investment to create real, lasting impact.

A cross-council UKRI scheme, SIPF is primarily delivered by Research England and Innovate UK in partnership with the higher education funding bodies of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and the Office for Students.



For media enquiries please email press@ukri.org or Tamera Jones, 0734 202 5443, tamera.jones@ukri.org

Notes to editors

  1. The Strength in Places Fund is a UK Research and Innovation flagship competitive funding scheme that takes a place-based approach to research and innovation funding to support significant local economic growth. The fund supports collaborative bids from local consortia including both businesses and research organisations, with strong engagement from local leadership partners and alignment with local economic plans.

  2. The Strength in Places Fund is delivered by UK Research and Innovation in partnership with: 

    1. the Office for Students – higher education regulator for England, https://www.officeforstudents.org.uk

    2. the Department for the Economy – higher education funding body for Northern Ireland, http://www.economy-ni.gov.uk  

    3. the Scottish Funding Council – higher education funding body for Scotland, http://www.sfc.ac.uk

    4. the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, https://www.hefcw.ac.uk.

  3. The UK Government announced the Strength in Places Fund in the Industrial Strategy White Paper. The White Paper highlighted the important role science, research, innovation and skills provision play in driving productivity and economic growth throughout the regions and nations of the UK. The fund forms part of the activity undertaken as part of the National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) that will contribute to the UK Government’s target to reach 2.4% of GDP investment in R&D by 2027, and 3% in the longer term. Government unveils Industrial Strategy to boost productivity and earning power of people across the UK

  4. Dame Kate Barker was an external member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee for three terms between 2001 and 2010. In 2003, Kate was commissioned by the government to conduct a major independent policy review of the UK Housing Supply, leading to a final report in 2004. She was subsequently asked to conduct a similar review of Land Use Planning and her final report was published in 2006. Kate was Chief Economic Adviser at the CBI between 1994 and 2001. In 2014 Kate was made a Dame for services to the economy. At present she is the Chair-elect of the Universities Superannuation Scheme, Chairman of Trustees for the British Coal Staff Superannuation Scheme, Chairman of the Jersey Fiscal Policy Panel, and a non-executive director of Taylor Wimpey plc and Man Group plc. Kate is a senior visiting fellow in the Department of Land Economy at Cambridge.

  5. UK Research and Innovation is a body which works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. We aim to maximise the contribution of each of our component parts, working individually and collectively. We work with our many partners to benefit everyone through knowledge, talent and ideas. https://www.ukri.org/. Operating across the whole of the UK with a combined budget of more than £8 billion, UK Research and Innovation brings together the Arts and Humanities Research Council; Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council; Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council; Economic and Social Research Council; Innovate UK; Medical Research Council; Natural Environment Research Council; Research England; and Science and Technology Facilities Council.

  6. Summaries of the UKRI Strength in Places Fund Wave 2 Expression of Interest Awards

Project Title (UKRI Strength in Places Fund, Wave 2, Expression of Interest stage) Lead organisation (note awards are to consortia of many partners) Main sector Summaries of awards
Smart Nano-Manufacturing Corridor Seagate Technology Ireland Electronics and Photonics Smart Nano Manufacturing Corridor (Northern Ireland): led by data company Seagate Technology Ireland, the project will bring together organisations from across the Belfast-Londonderry Corridor, connecting experts in photonics design, prototyping and mass-production of new miniaturised optical devices for medical imaging and cloud communications. Machine learning, data analytics and collaborative robotics will be adopted to enable the new products to be produced in higher volumes, more quickly, for increased productivity in Northern Ireland.
NIPBT - The Northern Ireland Precision Biomarkers and Therapeutics Consortium Queen's University Belfast Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals The Northern Ireland Precision Biomarkers and Therapeutics Consortium (Belfast): led by Queen’s University Belfast, the consortium will convene partners from industry and academia to develop new, more cost-effective targeted drugs and antibodies, as well as researching new, quicker ways of diagnosing cancer and other diseases. The long-term aim is to attract and secure highly-skilled jobs to the region while making Northern Ireland’s life and health science sector more productive.
Digital Dairy Value-Chain for South-West Scotland and Cumbria SRUC Agri-Tech, Food and Drink Digital Dairy Value-Chain for South-West Scotland and Cumbria

Activities include:

Digital Connectivity: improving milk production and processing using digital twinning, smart factories and connected supply chains.

Research, Development and Innovation: infrastructure and expertise to promote partnerships to develop and commercialise new products and processes.

Business growth: support for businesses looking to scale up, including facilities for new product development and process improvement.

People and Skills: industry-focused training for digital business skills in the remote rural regions.

Centre for Regulated Bio-Manufacture, boosting an advanced therapies, biologics and manufacturing cluster

Heriot-Watt University

Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals

Centre for Regulated Bio-Manufacture (Edinburgh): led by Heriot-Watt University, the consortium aims to establish an advanced therapies, biologics and manufacturing cluster in the Lothian region. Essential new therapies based on cellular technologies, such as transplanted donor tissues or cells, and of bio-therapeutics such as antibodies, require both a complex manufacturing infrastructure and skilled people to ensure quality and standards. This consortium spanning academia, business and the NHS will provide highly trained people and cutting edge facilities that will make this possible in the Lothians. This includes a new building for Real world learning, research and manufacture that contains the laboratory facilities required, co-located with NHS facilities and an industry cluster.

HotScot – Unlocking Minewater Geothermal Energy Within Former Mining Areas of Scotland’s Central Belt

University of Strathclyde


HotScot (Glasgow): led by the University of Strathclyde, the consortium oversee three new minewater geothermal projects, extracting heat from old flooded mines, which will help to provide low-cost, low-emissions heat for communities and businesses across Scotland’s Central Belt.

Creative Capital: moving the Cardiff Capital Region's media cluster from strength to global leadership

Cardiff University

Creative Economy

Creative Capital (Cardiff): led by Cardiff University, the project will look to harness the digital innovation displayed in the response to Covid-19, as well as Cardiff’s international reputation for film and TV production, by bringing together UK broadcasters, small local businesses and freelancers to research and develop new products and services in Wales for global markets.

Trans-Mid: Midlands Supercluster for Net Zero Transport and Mobility Supply Chains

University of Nottingham

Transport and Logistics

Trans-Mid (Nottingham): Led by the University of Nottingham, the project will partner universities with transport technology businesses, as well local suppliers to the vehicle, aerospace, and rail industries to develop new green products, with the aim of establishing the Midlands as a Supercluster for net zero transport. The project will form part of the UK’s commitment to carbon neutrality by 2050, creating thousands of new and upskilled jobs.

Suffolk and Norfolk Research and Innovation on the Sustainable Energy Coast (SuNRISE Coast)

University of East Anglia


Suffolk and Norfolk Research and Innovation on the Sustainable Energy Coast (SuNRISE Coast): led by the University of East Anglia. The Suffolk and Norfolk coast, while vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and coastal erosion, is crucial for UK’s energy supply combining offshore wind, gas and nuclear energy resources. SuNRISE Coast will combine local research strengths and business insights to address technical, regulatory and environmental challenges that inhibit the sustainable economic development of the southern North Sea. The programme will attract private investment to deliver economically and environmentally sustainable growth, including £30 billion of clean energy infrastructure projects, around the Southern North Sea, and underpin thousands of jobs in new and existing industries. A dedicated innovation team will support activities, with funding to drive translation of research and collaborative projects between businesses and the research base. Prioritised by local industrial and research advisory groups, projects will address industrial and environmental challenges by developing, testing and delivering new solutions in clean energy, marine and aquaculture technologies.

To Deliver Data Driven Next Generation Healthcare from Whitechapel

Queen Mary University of London

Healthcare (including Social Care)

To Deliver Data Driven Next Generation Healthcare from Whitechapel (London): led by Queen Mary University of London’, the project will harness artificial intelligence and data technology to provide better healthcare for patients living in East London, specifically Whitechapel, where chronic health problems are significantly higher than the national average. Through the funding, it will create a space for academics, clinicians and industry to work together with the local hospitals to develop and test new treatments.

International Centre for Connected Construction

Northumbria University


This consortium brings together industry, academia and the public sector across the North East’s globally renowned cluster of experts in digital construction. The centre, known as IC3, will enable the construction sector to ‘build better and build smarter’ by championing the use of digital technologies to drive productivity, improve safety and provide value over the longer term. This collaboration of industry, academic and the public sector will co-create, test, demonstrate and bring to market innovate digital solutions for the construction sector in a consolidated and synergistic manner, further boosting the region’s expertise, talent and reputation and unlocking new global markets for the region and wider UK.

Transforming productivity in complex medicines in the Cheshire and Warrington region

Medicines Discovery Catapult



Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals

Transforming productivity in complex medicines (Cheshire and Warrington): Medicines Discovery Catapult and the Cheshire and Warrington Local Enterprise Partnership aims to accelerate the development of a Complex Medicines cluster in the North West. The proposed bid will tap into the world-class expertise and infrastructure within Cheshire and Warrington to deliver a transformative programme of skills and training, business support activities and R&D. The consortium will foster innovation and growth in the UK’s life sciences sector, ultimately resulting in an upsurge in regional productivity and better patient outcomes driven from within Cheshire and Warrington.

Creative City+

Manchester Metropolitan University

Creative Economy

Creative City+ (Manchester): Led by Manchester Metropolitan University, the consortium aims to enhance local productivity in the creative industries through stimulating R&D activity to increase the knowledge, skills and expertise required to develop innovative products and services. It will do this through the creation of three Innovation Labs, as well as a Creative Economy Observatory and Future Skill Production hub, providing direct support and access to digital technologies for creative businesses of all sizes across the region. The project also seeks to address equality and diversity within the sector.

Accelerated Medicines Design and Development

Kent Surrey Sussex AHSN Ltd.

Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals

Accelerated Medicines Design and Development (Kent): the development of a Medicines Design Studio at Discovery Park in Sandwich aims to grow Kent’s life science sector, potentially creating around 400 jobs and contributing an estimated £180 million to the local economy over the next 15 years. Using data and digital technology, innovative businesses will be able to collaborate with industry partners such as Pfizer, the National Measurement Laboratory at LGC, and the University of Kent, in this project which is led by Kent Surrey Sussex Academic Health Science Network.

South West Floating Offshore Wind Accelerator

Wave Hub Ltd.


South West Floating Offshore Wind Accelerator (Cornwall and Plymouth): Led by the offshore renewable energy research company, Wave Hub, this project will build on Cornwall and Plymouth’s world-renowned excellence in offshore renewables business and research, to fast-track the building of large-scale floating offshore wind farms in the Celtic Sea from 2025 onwards. This will enable the region to make a decisive contribution to Britain’s offshore wind target of 40 Gigawatts by 2030 and also target a fivefold increase in Britain’s floating offshore wind exports.

CW Creative Futures: Driving a new era of immersive technologies growth in Coventry and Warwickshire

Coventry University

Cyber Security and Digital

CW Creative Futures (Coventry and Warwickshire): Led by Coventry University, the project will build on the region’s world leading ‘Silicon Spa’ gaming cluster. Home to over 50 games studios and 3,000 gaming businesses, the region’s unique skillset and infrastructure will be harnessed to create immersive products and services in combination with regional sector strengths such as automotive, advanced manufacturing and digital healthcare. Catalysing investments in demonstrator projects in partnerships with SMEs will increase job creation and inclusive economic growth rooted in the region’s diversity and creativity.

Midlands Advanced Ceramics for Industry 4.0

Lucideon Group Ltd

Chemical Industries and Materials

Midlands Advanced Ceramics for Industry 4.0: Advanced ceramics are vital ‘enablers’ for many manufacturing sectors, like energy, health, aerospace, automotive and defence. Developing new advanced ceramics technologies is currently based on a variety of experimental approaches with much reworking and high rejection rates, resulting in expensive and time-consuming work. Using cutting-edge digital modelling and investing in leading edge pilot-lines and digital twins, the MICG (Midlands Industrial Ceramics Group) consortium of researchers, manufacturers and end-users will create a centre of excellence to develop streamlined processes for proving and bringing new advanced ceramics technologies to market faster, with less energy usage and lower carbon emissions.  This will remove many of the current communication and technology transfer barriers to developing new ceramic technologies. It will enable effective problem solving and faster commercialisation of new products, so unlocking improved performance for next generation products including fuel cells and batteries, 5G communications, CMC (Ceramic matrix composites) for aero engines, and medical devices.  The consortium, led by Lucideon,  will drive a step-change expansion in the development and production of advanced ceramics in the Midlands leading to a jobs growth of 4200 by 2030, as well as boosting the competitiveness of our advanced manufacturers in the region by developing a robust advanced ceramics supply chain that can export into one of the fastest growing international industry sub-sectors.

Advanced Machinery & Productivity Institute - Creating the new machines and engineers needed to manufacture tomorrow's technologies

NPL Management Ltd.


Advanced Machinery & Productivity Institute (West Yorkshire and Lancashire): Led by the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) the project will build on existing research capabilities across the North of England through the creation of the Advanced Machinery & Productivity Institute. Bringing together industry, local government, higher education institutions, it will provide a collaborative space for the local workforce to design, develop and manufacture the advanced intelligent machinery and robotic systems needed by emerging technologies.


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