Chris Middleton hears how the government is calling for investor partners to help make manufacturing more sustainable. Sensors are at the core of a new UK government investment drive to back greater sustainability in foundation industries.

The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) Transforming Foundation Industries Challenge aims to support new technologies and business concepts that will help to reduce energy and resources use in industries such as cement, glass, ceramics, paper, metals, and bulk chemicals manufacturing.

Together, these foundational sectors – producing the materials used by other industries – are worth £52 billion to the economy, according to government figures. However, they are also responsible for 10 percent of total UK CO2 emissions. This is because they are often characterised by old, inefficient equipment that consumes large amounts of energy and other resources.

One way of increasing efficiency, reducing emissions, and minimising energy usage is via process measurement, optimisation, and digitisation techniques, using sensors and associated data analysis tools to help monitor and regulate the output and performance of industrial machines.

Sensors could also help in reducing and optimising energy costs and assisting in energy recovery, reuse, waste recycling, and industrial symbiosis.

Innovate UK, the wing of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) that fosters innovation under the Industrial Strategy, is seeking investors who are willing to support new technologies, startups, and SMEs by matching or exceeding its own grants.

The organisation has up to £7 million to invest in technologies, businesses, or projects that could help meet the Transforming Foundation Industries Challenge. Partner investors must be equity providers that have the potential to lead in individual investments of between £50,000 and £2 million.

They will be expected to identify new investments for the Challenge Fund, highlight opportunities that are already under consideration, and/or put forward SMEs in their portfolios that are looking for further investment or funding. The competition to find investor partners is open, with a deadline for applications of 11am on 9 December 2020. A full briefing will be held on 4 November.