N8 universities awarded government funding to support world-leading research


Five N8 universities have secured pump-prime funding to explore a series of critical research areas outlined in the government’s Industrial Strategy.

Research teams from the universities of Manchester, Newcastle, Liverpool, Lancaster and Sheffield have all received funding from the government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF).

Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, Greg Clark, announced recipients of the first wave of ISCF funding in late 2017. The government-backed investment aims to bring together the UK’s world-leading research with business to tackle some of the major industrial challenges facing society.

In April 2017, the government announced its commitment to invest £1 billion in cutting-edge technologies over the next four years. This will be spent across six key areas; healthcare and medicines, robotics and artificial intelligence (AI), clean and flexible energy, driverless vehicles, manufacturing and materials of the future and satellites and space technology.

The first wave of ISCF-funded projects has seen up to £21 million awarded to support the creation of a network of advanced therapies treatment centres in the UK. The universities of Manchester and Newcastle have been awarded two of three Advanced Therapy Treatment Centres (ATTC) that could revolutionise the management of incurable diseases.

The centres will be responsible for developing the systems and infrastructure to support delivery of cell and gene therapies.

The ISCF has also announced £68 million of funding for ground-breaking research and innovation projects in robotics and AI.

Of the total pot, £45 million will be used to set up four new research hubs across the UK, including at the University of Manchester. The four excellence centres will also receive £52 million of industry support from commercial and international partners.

The University of Liverpool has been selected as a project partner in three out of the four research hubs. Research teams from the universities of Sheffield and Lancaster will each join project teams within nuclear robotics and AI.

Recipients will use the funds to develop robotic solutions to make a safer working environment in industries such as offshore energy, nuclear energy, space and deep mining, increase productivity and open up new cross-disciplinary opportunities.

The first wave of challenges funded from the ISCF also includes the design and manufacture of batteries for electric vehicles, tackling air pollution and accelerating patient access to new drugs and treatments.

Dr Annette Bramley, director of the N8 Research Partnership, said: “We welcome the government’s announcement of the recipients of the first wave of ISCF funding and it’s fantastic to see such a strong representation of the North of England’s research strengths.

“The North’s expertise and leadership has a vital role to play in driving forward collaboration between business and academia as we aim to tackle some of the biggest societal challenges facing the UK.”