Through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, the government will also fund more than £68m for the development of robotics and artificial intelligence projects to improve safety in extreme environments such as in nuclear energy production processes and offshore wind installations.

Four new research hubs are being planned to be launched with almost £45m funding support from the government.

Managed by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the centers of excellence will be based at the University of Manchester, University of Birmingham, University of Surrey and Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh.

The research hubs will focus on developing robotic technology to allow safer working environments in space and deep mining as well as at the hazardous and harsh environments of nuclear energy and offshore wind.

A further £16m funding has been committed by the UK government for two new smart energy systems innovation competitions.

The competitions will be focused on supporting technologies that balance the demand on power grid between peak and lowest times to cut costs, and reduce emissions.

Additional investments include £4.3m for the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) to fund five research projects to develop sensors capable of working in the ocean’s extreme conditions as well as £3m for 17 studies which demonstrate the operations of artificial intelligence in extreme environments.

Natural Environment Research Council CEO Professor Duncan Wingham said: “These sensors will help us to better understand our oceans, helping us to manage them sustainably for the future.

“The projects will develop ambitious new technologies that work in hazardous and extreme environments, maintaining the UK’s world-class status in marine robotics.”

About £16.5m will be funded for a collaborative research and development competition, which will be run by Innovate UK.

Image: A nuclear power plant. Photo: courtesy of xedos4/