Area of investment and support

Area of investment and support: Transforming foundation industries

The foundation industries are vital to the UK manufacturing and construction sectors.
This challenge aims to transform the UK’s foundation industries by:

  • making them internationally competitive
  • securing more jobs throughout the UK
  • growing the sector by 2024 in an environmentally sustainable way
£66 million
2020 to 2024
Partners involved:
Innovate UK (lead), Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Innovate UK Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN), TFI Network+, TransFIRe

The scope and what we're doing

The UK’s foundation industries are vital for its manufacturing and construction sectors. The foundation industries are:

  • cement
  • metals
  • glass
  • paper
  • ceramics
  • chemicals

The challenge aims to transform the UK’s foundation industries by:

  • making them internationally competitive
  • securing more jobs throughout the UK
  • growing the sector by 2024 in an environmentally sustainable way

The ‘Transforming foundation industries’ (TFI) challenge is part of the ‘clean growth’ theme of the UKRI Challenge Fund.

Our work

The challenge’s programme is addressing barriers affecting the sector in a number of ways. The following are examples of current projects.

Scaling innovation

In partnership with St Helens Council, Liverpool City Region and the not-for-profit company Glass Futures, we are establishing a £57 million open access facility. This will scale up and commercialise sustainable glass manufacture.

Industry-led innovation

We are launching a series of industry-led collaborative research and development competitions. These are focused on cross-sector working, skills, knowledge transfer and adoption, with the aim of transforming the sector’s thinking.

Projects funded to date can be found in our portfolio, Shaping the future for the foundation industries in the UK.

University technology transfer

We are establishing an EPSRC research and innovation hub, which will connect high-quality innovators from universities with companies that can use their technology in industrial settings.

Transforming Foundation Industries Research and Innovation Hub (TransFIRe)

Supporting innovation

Through TFI Network+  and Foundation Industries KTN, we are helping to coordinate and develop a network across the foundation industries that will remove common barriers to innovation and adoption.

Providing late-stage finance

Through partnerships with private equity institutions, we are leveraging our funding to provide capital for fast-growing small and medium-sized enterprises.


Our partners include:

All our partners are supporting the development of a vibrant foundation industries community. This includes organising many virtual and face to face workshops and presentations, as well as networking events.

Foundation Industries Future Leaders Group

We have set up a future leaders group for this challenge to help the UKRI challenge team engage deeper into the foundation industry sectors and provide active feedback around initiatives and support programmes.

About the Foundation Industries Future Leaders Group.


Our funding opportunities may fund research and development projects that are classed as feasibility studies, industrial research or experimental development.

For feasibility studies and industrial research projects, the following intervention rates may apply:

  • up to 70% if you are a micro or small organisation
  • up to 60% if you are a medium-sized organisation
  • up to 50% if you are a large organisation

For experimental development projects which are nearer to market, the following intervention rates may apply:

  • up to 45% if you are a micro or small organisation
  • up to 35% if you are a medium-sized organisation
  • up to 25% if you are a large organisation

Capital costs may be funded through some funding opportunities with intervention rates of up to 80%.

Why we're doing it

The foundation industries exist as we know them today thanks to a series of crucial innovations. These allowed them to manufacture materials at a scale and price that economies across the globe could afford.

The foundation industries have continually evolved over the decades to meet our widening needs. Today, around 75% of the materials we see around us have been made by one of these six key industries.

As we move further into the 21st century, we need to rapidly address the challenges brought about by climate change, and the need for long-term sustainability in all that we do.

Innovation is key to achieving this aim and is the reason we have established the transforming foundation industries challenge.

For more information see:

Past projects, outcomes and impact

Funded projects

Glass pilot facility

£15 million to support the development and fit out of a pilot research and development (R&D) facility in St Helens.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is investing £15 million in an experimental glass furnace facility run by Glass Futures Ltd, a not for profit company.

The facility will be capable of producing 30 tonnes of glass a day for R&D into products such as bottles, jars or windows and will be located in St Helens on a former glassworks site historically occupied by United Glass.

Read more about the glass pilot facility: ground is broken at £45 million future glass centre on historic site.

Large CRD projects

£8 million funding to support 7 innovative new projects. The aim is to improve the productivity and competitiveness of the UK’s foundation industry companies and their supply chains.

Read more about the Large CRD funded projects: the key aims of new foundation industries projects.

Small scale CRD projects

£1.2 million funding to support 15 innovative new projects, which will focus on resource or energy efficiency in the foundation industries or their immediate supply chains. This will help companies to adapt and prosper in response to their customer’s increasing demands for more sustainable products.

Read more about the small scale CRD funded projects: improving resource and energy efficiency in foundation industries.

Demonstrator projects

£24 million funding to support 8 innovative new projects. The aim is to reduce waste and improve energy efficiency at scale. Projects were also required to show cross-sector and collaborative elements, with significant industry investment and opportunities.

Read more about the demonstrator funded projects: projects aim to reduce waste and improve energy efficiency.

TransFIRe and resilient recovery projects

£4.7 million in funding has been awarded to a new Transforming Foundation Industries Research and Innovation hub (TransFIRE). It will be led by Professor Mark Jolly, Cranfield University along with 12 partner universities.

£8 million funding to support 19 innovative new projects, with the focus on resource and energy efficiency in order to help make the industries more environmentally sustainable, while maintaining their global competitiveness.

Read more about TransFIRe and resilient recovery projects: funding awarded for recovery solutions for foundation industries.

Investor Partner programme

£4.8 million in funding to support 7 innovative projects, with the addition of £20 million aligned private equity investment. These investment funds are keen to support innovations that meet the growing demand for more sustainable products in the sector.

Read more about the Investor Partner funder projects: Transforming Foundation Industries Investor Partner programme.

ECONOMISER programme

£19.5 million in funding awarded to Foundation Industries Sustainability Consortium.

This award is to run the Economic Material Innovation for Sustainable and Efficient use of Resources (ECONOMISER) programme. The programme will develop a network of scale-up centres to support industry and academic engagement in innovation in carbon reduction, process improvement and product development.

Read more about the ECONOMISER programme: scaling-up technologies for the foundation industries.

Summary report: Innovation Readiness in UK Foundation Industries, March 2021

Research shows potential for innovation in the UK’s foundation industries. The transforming foundation industries (TFI) challenge research finds only around half of foundation industry businesses introduced new products and new processes within the last three years. The main hindrances to innovation were found to be risk, high costs and uncertainty around the UK’s relationship with the EU.

The TFI challenge fund will play a key role in encouraging businesses and the sector to embrace innovation

Read more about the summary report: research shows potential for innovation in the UK’s foundation industries.

Case studies

Learn more about the projects the challenge has funded to support the foundation industries.

Lucideon Ltd

Funded by UKRI, the company Lucideon is developing a new way to densify ceramic and glass powder. This reduces energy demand by more than 50% and could make UK companies more competitive.

Case study on Lucideon’s work.

Who to contact


Last updated: 20 April 2023

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