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Government injects £65m into robots, batteries and health

11 September, 2020

The UK government has announced a £65m cash boost for three key technologies that could transform people’s lives – robots, high-tech batteries and advanced healthcare treatments. The funding will come from its Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, managed by UK Research & Innovation (UKRI).

Announcing the funding, science minister Amanda Solloway said “we want to build back better by putting the UK at the forefront of new technologies to create high-skilled jobs, increase productivity and grow the economy as we recover from coronavirus”. She added that the funding “will strengthen the UK’s global status in a range of areas … helping us develop innovative solutions to some of our biggest global challenges and creating jobs in rewarding careers right across the country”.

Some £15m of the funding will be used to develop to develop robots that can be used to inspect, maintain and repair nuclear power stations, satellites and wind turbines. It will also be used for applications in areas such as agriculture, logistics and healthcare.

The funding, part of the Robots for a Safer World challenge, will also address needs resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, such as contact-free deliveries, drones, driverless vehicles, and robots that can move hospital beds.

The Robotics for a Safer World initiative has already created nearly 300 jobs in the UK and around the world. The new funding is expected to boost the number of skilled roles and attract more businesses to the robotics sector

Andrew Tyrer, director of the initiative, says the funding will help businesses and academics to bridge the gap to deliver the challenge, and to apply the knowledge they have gained in sectors such as agriculture, construction, logistics and healthcare.

Almost £44m of the funding will be allocated to the government’s Faraday Battery Challenge which aims to develop a new generation of high-performance batteries for electric vehicles and wind turbines. The batteries could also be used in emerging applications such as electric planes.

In addition, the funding will help to complete the £108m “first-of-its-kind” UK Battery Industrialisation Centre, being built in Coventry, which is expected to create 100 skilled jobs. It will also enable the Faraday Institution to continue funding research and advances in battery technology.

The £108m UK Battery Industrialisation Centre, being built in Coventry, is intended to keep the UK at the forefront of advanced battery technologies.

The Institution predicts that the workforce in the UK automotive and electric vehicle battery sectors could grow by 29% from 170,000 in 2020 to 220,000 by 2040.

Tony Harper, director of The Faraday Battery Challenge, explains that “for batteries to play their full environmental and economic role in achieving net-zero, we need to deploy at scale and build supply chains for today’s technology, shift from strong potential to commercial dominance in a new generation of batteries and continue to build world-class scientific capability to sustain us into the future”.

The third beneficiary of the funding is the Advanced Therapy Treatment Centre (ATTC) network, which will receive £6.5m to fund an extra 12 months of work. It will support projects affected by the pandemic via the Medicines Manufacturing challenge and co-ordinated by the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult.

The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, established in 2017, is delivering £2.6bn of government investment with the aim of funding world-leading research and fostering innovative businesses to address industrial and societal challenges. Since it was created, the Fund has supported 1,820 organisations and almost 500 projects across the UK.

The latest announcement furthers the government’s commitment, via its r&d roadmap, to put the UK at the forefront of transformational technologies. It is part of the government’s wider commitment to increase r&d investment to 2.4% of GDP by 2027.

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