NEWS / Blog / How firms can access funding for the next round of Innovate UK competitions


24 JUL 2019


After a development and planning period we are now in a position where the Transforming Construction Programme (part of Industrial Strategy) is about to come to the industry with opportunities for support. This takes 2 forms, mentoring and development support for technology and services related to offsite manufacturing and funding available to top up live project funds to test innovation or for products and services not yet market tested to develop them further. An exciting period for businesses no doubt when all of the ambitions of the Construction Sector Deal can actually begin to become a reality.

In this article I explore the different competitions which are opening and summarise their ambitions to help businesses understand which could work for them.

By way of background a key part of the Construction Sector Deal is an investment by the Government of £170m in the Transforming Construction Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) in line with the Transforming Infrastructure Performance (TIP) Programme and the Transport Infrastructure Efficiency Strategy (TIES). All competitions being launched are intended to build on work to date under the Sector Deal and other Government initiatives to improve productivity in construction and deliver savings while improving outcomes for Government procured built environment projects. This is certainly worth bearing in mind when you’re bidding and for ACE members we can offer a bid review service which helps to confirm alignment between the overarching ambitions and your particular proposal – aiding your chances of a successful bid

1. Transforming Construction Call

a) Demonstrator projects call

Ideally working with a government department (or other engaged client) to prove new business models in the real world on a real project – the cost of which counts as the industry match funding, with the Innovate UK funding available to cover the extra risk/tech deployment in effect – so benefits can be demonstrated at scale.

The available funding totals £26m split across a number of projects – potentially around 10. These will be real life projects for which funding could provide some additionality – to de-risk a novel solution, to implement more productive or sustainable approaches on a live project, to scale up from theoretical solution to commercially viable approach that delivers measurable improvement, to improve interoperability, flexibility so solutions works across multiple sectors or projects – all consistent with the “digital, manufacturing and performance” strands of the Construction Sector Deal

For consultancy businesses projects they are working on with the following could be eligible:-

  • “Quality’’ design optioneering/modelling with multiple variables, using data aggregation and visualisation techniques to improve decision making and sensitivity analysis in project development. Approaches for using data to provide quality assurance and risk management during the construction and operational phases – consistent with for example providing the “golden thread” called for in Dame Judith Hackitt’s report.

  • “Productivity” Designing for more productive delivery – supporting improved productivity in the design or construction phase (including parametric design using standard components, rapid engineering models built on design guidance rules, advanced layout and scheduling tools, digitally enabled master planning and optioneering).

  • “Performance”, deployment of new business models which incentivise and reward a contribution to the whole life performance of assets rather than paying solely for inputs to a project – could be linked to how new operational data measurement can be used as a key indicators of performance. i.e. as a consultancy firm being incentivised and rewarded for delivering outcomes rather than just an asset at lowest cost.

The demonstrator projects must be real life projects where innovations have been/will be deployed. The project team will need to jointly put the submission forward in order to allow the impact of innovation across the whole project to be reviewed and measured in terms of the improvements to project outcomes, namely reducing the time of the construction phase, reducing the overall whole life project cost whilst delivering the same or improved outcomes and reducing the embedded carbon in the asset created.

b) Collaborative R&D call

This funding call is aimed at helping businesses accelerate the development of theoretical products and services so they can build the supply chain capacity to deliver in the new world of construction. It will prioritise investment in cutting edge products and services which lead to more productive methods to deliver better outcomes. For consultancy businesses this could include the following:-

  • ’Productivity’’ in the design or construction phase where a technology or service can be developed with the opportunity to be applied at scale across multiple projects to significantly improve productivity across a whole programme.

  • Quality, research and solutions using cutting edge materials in design solutions and product development; 

    - application and use of digital twins in the design process

    - interoperability of asset data and business case analysis with multiple variables. Extending existing rules based rapid engineering models to include design rules and optimisation based on customer experience and wider outcomes, tools and solutions which preserve the Golden thread of data and performance metrics through an assets creation, handover and lifecycle. Apps or solutions which deliver a service directly to consumers/users to reduce demand on infrastructure and the built environment. Risk analysis tools/services which identify benefits and funding streams which can then be integrated in a single programme for delivery. Master planning and modelling across multiple clients & networks.

  • Performance, tools and services to analyse asset performance or customer use data in order to inform better decision making on projects. Block chain and distributed ledger technology built into tools which enable the measure of micro transactions and the impact on the project outcomes as a way of transparently measuring and rewarding/paying for performance.

The Collaborative R&D projects can be theoretical in their nature with the investment used to validate and develop them towards deployment. These proposals can be put forward by a single organisation or a collective who will develop the solutions together. These should be cutting services and technology solutions which have the opportunity to impact significantly on how we design, develop and deliver the assets in the built environment, including the potential to be a world leading and exportable offering.

ACE can offer advice to member firms on how their proposal fits with TIP or TIEs objectives defined in the funding brief and the Future of Consultancy campaign.

In order to register your interest and find out more about the application process above businesses are encouraged to sign up to webinar briefing session using this link.

In addition to the above there will be face to face briefing sessions competition briefing events for the call will be held during September in London (4th), Cardiff (5th), Birmingham (6th), Belfast (11th) & Glasgow (12th). The briefing events will present the funding opportunity, provide the chance to hear from the Innovate UK team, pose questions and network. Registration for these events will open after the Overview Webinar.

2. Platform design call

Through the Construction Innovation Hub and their ambitions to meet the Government’s commitment to offsite manufacturing for construction across 5 departments the hub is offering an opportunity to access development expertise for offsite manufacturing products and design solutions. The hub is asking for business with components/standardised design systems to come forward to co-develop the catalogue for future building design of Government buildings. It’s not the only opportunity to get components and systems into the catalogue but it is the chance to be first on it with the additional opportunity to have your components/systems designs tested to meet the standards and built as part of the trial to develop the standards for the catalogue going forward. The first set of systems to make it onto the platform/catalogue will be manufactured by the Manufacturing Technology Centre as part of the testing and assurance process. This building will then be on show across the UK at major trade shows to demonstrate what is possible with offsite manufacturing, bringing additional profile and interest from private sector clients as well as the government clients who will be using the catalogue.

There is an opportunity to register your interest for this competition ahead of the competition opening on the 28th August 2019.

All of the above sets out really interesting opportunities for individual businesses to accelerate their R&D and development of capability along with the industry level opportunity to showcase to Government and Private Sector Clients where the future of Engineering and Consultancy in the UK is headed. I have no doubt we have the ability to expand on our globally renowned high value design expertise and these sorts of competitions provide a fantastic opportunity to accelerate that.

Hannah  Vickers

Hannah Vickers

Chief Executive

Hannah leads ACE, representing members across industry and government.