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Funding boost for UK manufacturers to adopt digital tech

Five new research centres and projects announced to help supply chains become more productive

Posted on 28 Jul 2021 and read 746 times
Funding boost for UK manufacturers to adopt digital tech Five new digital manufacturing research centres and projects to help supply chains become more productive are among recipients of £53 million of new Government funding to drive the development of the latest digital manufacturing technologies, Investment Minister Lord Grimstone announced yesterday

The funding has been awarded though the national www.madesmarter.uk Made Smarter programme, a collaboration between the UK Government and industry designed to support the development and increase use of these emerging technologies.

Adoption of the latest data-driven innovations, such as use of AI and blockchain in supply chains, or advanced robotics and smart machines in manufacturing, will help manufacturers to increase productivity, become more sustainable and competitive.

Nearly £25 million will be invested in five new industry-sponsored research centres set up around the UK, including at the University of Strathclyde and University of Nottingham, to accelerate the development of cutting-edge digital solutions that can transform manufacturing businesses across many sectors.

Based in universities throughout the UK, they will help to make supply chains faster, more efficient, and more resilient — each centre will focus on a different area of manufacturing.

Lord Grimstone said: “As we embark on a digital manufacturing revolution, we want to make sure our manufacturers are bolstered by the latest cutting-edge technology as we all work to ‘build back better’ from the pandemic.

“Improving productivity and becoming more competitive is not just about sophisticated manufacturing, but also about smarter manufacturing, and we want to make it as easy as possible for companies large and small to make the changes needed to take full advantage of the innovative technology being developed.”

A further £18 million has been awarded through the Digital Supply Chain Competition to 37 winning projects to support their development of new innovations.

Breakthrough solutions

£10 million in funding has also been awarded to the new Made Smarter Innovation Digital Supply Chain Innovation Hub to develop breakthrough solutions that create supply chains that are fully connected, resilient and sustainable.

Delivered through a collaboration led by Digital Catapult, and bringing together businesses, universities and research technology organisations, the new Hub network will help make innovation more accessible for a wide range of potential businesses, including manufacturers and technology providers large and small. The hub will provide them with access to clusters of test beds and other practical laboratories.

Chris Courtney, Made Smarter innovation challenge director, said: “Digital technologies have the power to radically transform how we manufacture and deliver the products and services of today and the future, delivering a productive, sustainable and flexible manufacturing sector and enhancing the future of work within it.

“There are enormous opportunities to innovate in this area, we have world-leading industries, a powerful scientific and research community and a vibrant technology sector. It is vital we form a vibrant connected ecosystem from applied research to industrialisation in order to fully capitalise on that potential.

“We have seen tremendous demand for this area across all sectors, company sizes and locations, and real evidence of the vibrant community of innovators in the areas of digital manufacturing and supply chains. I am excited to see how this powerful coalition transforms the future of manufacturing and its supply chains.”

Fostering a culture of innovation

Jeremy Silver, Digital Catapult CEO, added: “The opportunity for innovation in manufacturing supply chains is incredibly broad. The Made Smarter Digital Supply Chain Innovation Hub will demonstrate how the tangible impact of emerging digital technologies can affect the nation’s supply chains, mitigating against the kinds of component shortages experienced during the pandemic, boosting efficiency, reducing waste, and supporting some of the UK’s most important industrial sectors through fostering a culture of innovation.

“Digital Catapult brings to the Hub its significant experience in driving ambitious innovation programmes and creating opportunities for businesses right across manufacturing sectors, as well as extensive experience in building major testbed facilities that provide real hands-on technology experience for businesses.

“Through this groundbreaking, UK-wide collaboration with leading organisations in industry, we hope to provide a lasting boost for the UK’s manufacturing industries as they accelerate back to growth.”

These announcements follow on from the £300 million joint Government and industry funding made available through the Manufacturing Made Smarter Challenge and the £8 million Government funding given to help small- and medium-size manufacturers take advantage of industrial digital technology under the UK Government’s Made Smarter Adoption programme which includes free impartial, expert advice, funded digital internships, access to specialised leadership and management training, as well as match-funding for digital transformation projects.