ISCF Next Generation Services Research Programme
The ESRC, on behalf of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), is pleased to announce the Next Generation Services research call under the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. Proposals of up to £1.25 million (100% full economic cost) are invited for interdisciplinary research grants, focused on working with businesses to identify the potential opportunities offered by the application of new technologies in the high value services sector (specifically the accountancy, legal services and insurance industries). Successful projects will be expected to start by December 2018 and must be completed by March 2021


The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) was created to ensure that research and innovation takes centre stage in the government's industrial strategy. It brings together UK businesses with the country's world leading research capacity to address key industrial challenges identified as areas where new research and innovation can help UK business acquire or retain a world-leading position and hence underpin the UK’s economic future. The fund is administered by Innovate UK and the research councils, which since April 2018 are constituent parts of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

Next Generation Services Challenge

This call is part of the ISCF Next Generation Services Challenge. The objective of the Challenge is to maintain the UK’s leadership in global high-value services by developing a targeted approach to support R&D in the emerging new technologies based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the data economy, one of four 'Grand Challenge' areas identified in the government’s Industrial Strategy White Paper. These sectors are facing competition from other nations, particularly in the Far East, implementing new technology-driven solutions.

Next Generation Services Research Programme

The call focuses on identifying the potential opportunities offered by the application of new technologies in the targeted sectors as well as the potential barriers to adoption and how to resolve these so that the benefits offered by the new technology for both individual businesses and wider society can be fully realised: There are many opportunities to improve these services with new technology but there are barriers to adoption that are social and behavioural. The aim of the research programme will be to identify more specifically the challenges and friction costs that, if addressed, are likely to speed up adoption and diffusion, and propose options to address these that industry can implement.

This call is for interdisciplinary research aimed at addressing the broad range of technical and socio-economic challenges presented by this disruptive new technology. It will draw not only on core technical areas relevant to AI such as computer and data science and maths but also relevant disciplines from the social sciences and humanities; these may include, but are not limited to, behavioural and management science, economics, finance, law, ethics and anthropology. Similarly, although academic led, proposals are required to have the support and active engagement of at least one industry partner from the designated industries to ensure the direct relevance of the proposed research programme to the ultimate objectives of the Challenge as identified above. 

Key dates
Faculty 1st draft review: 18th June 2018
Funder deadline: 16:00 on 18 July 2018
Panel meeting: September 2018
Grants start: by December 2018