The UK government's long-promised Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund is open for business.
Jumping swiftly on the AI bandwagon, the first lump of cash to be awarded through the multimillion-pound fund will be for robotics and artificial intelligence.
The fund, announced back in November 2016, was conceived as part of wider plans to demonstrate the government was taking industrial strategy seriously after former business secretary Sajid Javid – who favoured an industrial "approach" – was booted out in Prime Minister Theresa May's cabinet reshuffle.
The idea is to make researchers and businesses work together to tackle major industrial challenges, and the areas of focus were fleshed out in the 2017 Spring Budget.
These six areas of investment include electric vehicles, aerospace materials, and satellites.
Robotics and AI are the focus of two areas, with £93m on offer for systems that can be used in extreme environments for offshore energy, space, and deep mining, and £38m for AI and control systems for driverless cars.
The first three funding rounds to open are in the robotics and AI area, with the biggest chunk – £42m – being for work that will speed up the pace of fundamental research.
There is £10m available for R&D carried out with industry, which the government said must promise a "step-change in capabilities" for the use of robotics and AI in extreme environments.
A further £6m is for applicants who want to test the technical feasibility of specific technologies, systems or subsystems.
A second phase for experimental developments of fully integrated systems will run next year, but you have to apply to this round to be considered to lead a project in the second.
The basic research fund is being managed by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, while the more industry-focused ones are being run by innovation agency Innovate UK. ®