The UK is a world leader in new ideas, and through Innovate UK we now have a mechanism for transforming them into products. Nigel Rix explains how to obtain funding to help face the risks and challenges of innovation.
“Innovate or die” has been the retail sector’s mantra for many years – and there are many examples of retailers that are no longer in business because they failed to listen to their customers or adopt new technology.
The manufacturing sector is now facing similar challenges and it will be survival of the fittest – those who can adopt new technologies and adapt to customer demands.
The fourth industrial revolution
The industry has seen the rise of disruptive technologies, such as additive manufacturing, which provide new manufacturing technologies that can reduce costs and improve product performance and capabilities.
But adopting new technology has risks, and the biggest potential risk is in the area of information technology which underpins the fourth industrial revolution. Just as previous industrial revolutions introduced mechanisation, mass production and automation, bringing new opportunities and challenges for manufacturers; the move to the greater use of data will generate winners and losers based on who can best adopt the new methodologies.
The greater productivity of German manufacturers has been attributed to their adoption of Industry 4.0. While a weak pound is artificially maintaining the competitive nature of the UK manufacturing sector for exports, this factor may reduce as we approach Brexit.
The major competitions have a fund of approximately £15m for grants to support projects. They are often organised into two steams. Stream one for smaller projects and Stream two for larger collaborative projects.
Stream one is particularly relevant to smaller companies. Proposed projects can last for up to 12 months with a project cost of up to £100,000. The aim is to fund projects that are highly innovative and which could potentially generate increased revenues and profitability, but which are too risky or challenging to be undertaken from internal budgets.
Where to go next
Despite the new simplification it can still be confusing for any company that has not worked with Innovate UK. Helping industry understand and maximise their opportunities of winning funding is the role of the KTN.
As well as running the briefing sessions for each competition, we can provide support for individual companies to understand the funding landscape and how to maximise their chances of winning funding.