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Strength in Places Fund: Strong bids taken forward


Strength in Places Fund: Strong bids from every region of the UK will be taken forward to the final decision stage

Twenty-four ambitious projects, from pharmaceuticals to aerospace, and transport to the creative economy, are to receive early-stage funding to develop full-stage bids that could lead to significant economic growth in places across the country.

Each of the shortlisted projects from the first wave of UK Research and Innovation’s Strength in Places Fund has been awarded up to £50k in early-stage funding, which will allow applicants to develop full-stage bids. Teams behind these projects will then submit these bids to UK Research and Innovation in late 2019, with four to eight of the strongest set to receive between £10m and £50m each to carry out projects designed to drive substantial economic growth.

Announced in the modern Industrial Strategy in November 2017, the Strength in Places Fund will benefit 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. The fund brings together research organisations, businesses, and local leadership on projects that will lead to significant economic impact, high-value job creation and regional growth.

Chief Executive of UK Research and Innovation, Professor Sir Mark Walport, said: 

‘Our clear vision is to ensure we benefit everyone through knowledge, talent and ideas. Significant support through the Strength in Places Fund will further catalyse economic potential across the country by bringing researchers, industry and regional leadership together to drive sustained growth through world-class research and innovation.’

The twenty-four projects span the UK, with all nations and regions of the country represented.

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

‘I was delighted to be invited by UK Research and Innovation to chair the SIPF independent expert panel. After considering a large number of Expressions of Interest from around the country, the panel were pleased to recommend a strong set of bids for funding. These awards demonstrate significant expertise across a wide range of sectors, and the potential for research and innovation partnerships to contribute substantially to increased growth and productivity in areas of local economic activity.’

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

‘There is world-class research and development, and high quality innovation right across the UK, from excellent research in university departments and public research organisations to initiatives from forward-looking businesses.

‘UK Research and Innovation’s Strength in Places Fund will capitalise on these strengths and foster the local ecosystems that can support innovation and sustained growth and will strengthen collaboration between industry and our world-class research base.

‘I am delighted with the range of seedcorn bids funded across the UK in the first wave.

The Strength in Places Fund is a cross-council UKRI programme in partnership with the higher education funding bodies of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and the Office for Students.

A list of the twenty-four funded projects is detailed below.

The Government confirmed in the 2018 Budget that the Strength in Places Fund is to receive a further £120m to bring the fund budget for the period up to 2021/22 to £236m.

Notes to editors

For media enquiries please email the Communications Team.

  1. UK Research and Innovation is a new 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 £7 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.

  1. 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 UKRI Strength in Places Fund therefore forms part of the activity undertaken as part of the National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) that will be contributing to the UK Government’s target to reach 2.4% of GDP investment in R&D by 2027. The fund is part of the National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) that contributes 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
  1. Dame Kate Barker Kate 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. In 2017 Kate was appointed as a Commissioner of the National Infrastructure Commission. She is the 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.  In July 2017 she became a member of the Council, Oxford University.
  1. UKRI Strength in Places Fund Wave one consortia are led by either a research organisation or a business, and involve local leadership organisations. Summaries and lead partners for each award are provided below. Full descriptions of the projects are available.

Nation/region of lead partner

Bid summary

Tech area


CS Connected: Cardiff University-led bid to grow local compound semiconductor cluster, including a significant provision of training to enhance skills across the region through a compound semiconductor skills academy.

Electronics and Photonics

Northern Ireland

Decarbonisation of Maritime Transportation - a Return to Commercial Sailing: Artemis Technologies-led bid on decarbonisation of maritime transportation through the creation of the UK’s most advanced composite design and manufacturing facilities in Belfast Harbour.

Aerospace, Marine, Defence and Space


Accelerating the 4th industrial revolution across Scotland’s Central Belt: University of Strathclyde-led bid to boost the economic impact of the burgeoning industrial biotechnology sector in Scotland’s Central Belt through the development of biology-based products and platforms.


Clyde Waterfront Innovation Campus: University of Glasgow-led bid to create a Clyde Waterfront Innovation Campus to accelerate innovation in the manufacture of new technology based on photonics, optoelectronics and quantum technology.

Electronics and Photonics

Global Centre of Excellence in Open Banking (COB): FinTech Scotland bid to create a ‘Global Centre of Excellence in Open Banking’ in Edinburgh, driving the growth of the local fintech cluster.

Financial Technology, Business and Professional Services

The Living Lab: driving economic growth in Glasgow through real world implementation of precision medicine: University of Glasgow-led bid to drive economic growth in Glasgow by translating science and innovation in precision medicine into a real world clinical setting – boosting productivity growth through expansion of the local life sciences cluster, savings for NHS and a healthier workforce.

Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals
North East

Centre for Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (CESAM): A bid from the University of Sunderland on behalf of a consortium to develop the ‘Centre for Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing’ which will boost productivity in the North East’s automotive manufacturing sector by accelerating the development and deployment of manufacturing process innovations.


Establishing the UK Hydrogen Corridor: TWI along with Leeds, Teesside and Durham universities, NEPIC and the Materials Processing Institute are leading a bid to develop the Leeds – Tees Valley Hydrogen Corridor to drive the use of hydrogen for transport, domestic heating and industrial use.

 North East Cluster for Healthy Ageing and Independent Living (NE-CHAIN): Newcastle University-led bid to create a North East Cluster for Healthy Ageing and Independent Living which will build on local R&D strengths to put Newcastle and the North East at the centre of efforts to develop holistic and innovative solutions to challenges around healthy ageing and independent living.   Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals

PRISMS: PRISMS will leverage the world-class knowledge base across the Northern Powerhouse to address industry-specific challenges within the Chemicals, Process and Materials sectors.  Building on the underpinning Science & Innovation Audits, the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) and the University of York will establish interdisciplinary expertise networks, especially at the interfaces between chemistry, biotechnology and process engineering, to maximise economic growth.

Bioeconomy; Chemical Industries and Materials

North West

AI-Enabled Materials Chemistry across the Mersey Basin: STFC Laboratories-led bid to drive AI-Enabled Materials Chemistry across the Mersey Basin by delivering AI tools for digital design and processing of real materials for the benefit of industries and their supply chains.

Chemical Industries and Materials

Delivering Integrated Solutions for Human Infections: Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine-led bid to supercharge the local cluster developing innovative integrated solutions for human infections. 

Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals

Yorkshire & Humber

Energy Estuary 2.0: Fuelling Inclusive Economic Growth in the Humber: University of Hull-led bid to establish the Humber Estuary as the most energy resilient region of the UK, driving the growing clean energy industry in the area by supporting innovation in energy storage, conversion, distribution and demand management.


The Glass Corridor - Delivering World-Class Glass Research in the Northern Powerhouse: Glass Futures Ltd-led bid to grow on world-class research in the Northern Powerhouse and create a global centre of excellence in glass technology and manufacturing.

Chemical Industries and Materials

Medical Technologies in the Leeds City Region: Driving economic growth, improving health and care: University of Leeds-led bid on boosting the growing MedTech industry in the Leeds City Region through strategically aligned investment in tech innovation and advancement, clinical evaluation, infrastructure and multidisciplinary skills.

Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals

East Midlands

Growing Rehabilitation Industries Project (GRIP): Loughborough University-led bid to grow the local rehabilitation and medical technology sector and create substantial economic growth in the Nottingham/Loughborough/Leicester area.

Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals

West Midlands

Med Tech CONNECT West Midlands (COllaborative Network to eNable and Enhance Cross-sector Transformation): University of Birmingham-led regional consortium that aims to link research development, cross-sector knowledge exchange and innovation in medical technologies, addressing a significant regional productivity gap within this sector and helping existing/new businesses co-create and accelerate development of innovative med-tech products and services to market by leveraging established expertise, partnerships and translational ecosystem.

Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals

South West

Cyber Wales and West: University of Bristol-led bid to build on Wales and South West of England’s capability as a centre for cyber R&D.

Digital / Cyber Security

The Environmental Intelligence Accelerator: University of Exeter-led bid to build create the Environmental Intelligence Accelerator, building on the SW’s environmental science and digital innovation strengths. The Accelerator will drive productivity and clean growth across private and public sector organisations, including areas such as Food Production, Energy & Utilities, Construction, Finance & Insurance and Health.

Enabling Technologies

My World: University of Bristol-led bid to build on the production, technology and research strengths of the Bristol and Bath region in creative media and associated technologies. The project will create major new R&D facilities and collaborations that drive the development of the local cluster and position the region as a world leader for screen-based media.

Creative Economy

Greater London

Performing Productivity: Screen, Stage and the Performing Arts for Economic Growth in the Thames Estuary Production Corridor: University of the Arts London-led bid to support the development of performance production arts, and technology, supporting economic infrastructure in the Thames Estuary Production Corridor, from Stratford through to Essex and Kent. The project will leverage R&D in this sector to increase the productivity of an area with high potential for growth.

Creative Economy

East of England

Realising Economic Potential from Agricultural (and Horticultural) Yield – REPAY: University of Essex-led bid that aims to improve the productivity of the local rural industry and its related value and supply chains by bringing together researchers, industry and primary producers.


Supply Chain 4.0 Southeast Midlands Hub of Excellence: Cranfield University-led bid to create a regional hub of Supply Chain 4.0 excellence offering businesses knowledge, expertise and a test bed for new ideas to improve supply chain processes by introducing latest technologies such as robotics and automation, developing analytics capabilities and experimenting with emerging applications such as drones, autonomous vehicles, and deep learning.

Transport and Logistics

South East

Growing Kent & Medway: NIAB EMR-led bid to create the “Growing Kent & Medway” cluster as a vehicle to drive productivity and sustainable growth in an area with significant socio-economic challenges. This world-class research, innovation and enterprise platform will develop Kent and Medway as the UK’s leading region for the production and processing of high-value foods and plant-based compounds.


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