Boost for UK advanced manufacturing via £30M investment in digital tech R&D competition

25 July 2019

Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy sign
Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy sign

UK manufacturers wanting to adopt the latest industrial digital technologies can bid for a new £30 million R&D competition. Businesses can apply for a share of £30M to support projects that use digital technology to improve the productivity & agility of UK manufacturing.

Making UK manufacturing smarter: apply for funding
The Government has launched a £30 million R&D competition for projects aiming to radically boost the productivity and agility of UK manufacturing. The competition forms part of the Manufacturing Made Smarter Challenge, funded through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. This Fund – a key part of Government’s modern Industrial Strategy – will support the application of new industrial digital technologies, including AI, VR/AR/MR, IoT and robotics, in manufacturing.

This new funding is from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund and aligns with the recommendations made by Juergen Maier CBE, Siemens UK CEO and Co-Chair of the Made Smarter Commission in his review for the government of industrial digitalisation called Made Smarter, and the activities of the newly formed Made Smarter Commission.

Industrial digital technologies (IDTs), driven by artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, virtual/augmented/mixed reality (VR/AR/MR) and the Internet of Things (IoT), have the potential to significantly increase the productivity of UK manufacturing.

The Made Smarter Review 2017 commissioned by the UK government estimated that industrial digitalisation could increase productivity by more than 25%.

The UK government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund Manufacturing Made Smarter Challenge aims to raise productivity by 30% by 2030 by investing in projects that support the transformation of UK manufacturing by encouraging the development and integration of industrial digital technologies.

The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) has up to £30 million to invest in projects that use industrial digital technologies to transform manufacturing productivity.

The Manufacturing Made Smarter Challenge aims to:
•    Provide a collaborative and cross-sector approach to digital technology R&D and innovation to boost UK manufacturing productivity and competitiveness;
•    Encourage the cooperation of small, medium and large scale companies throughout the UK supply chain to develop new digital capabilities and knowledge to become the recognised global leader in the application of industrial digital technologies such as data analytics, immersive technologies, connected environments and IoT; and
•    Provide the platform for digital technology companies to engage directly in manufacturing.

Business Secretary, Greg Clark said: "We want to support companies of all sizes who want to develop new digital capabilities, and will support projects that will help ensure the UK remains at the forefront of technological developments.

"Through Made Smarter and our modern Industrial Strategy we are committed to making sure manufacturers are best placed to take advantage of the opportunities being created by industrial digitalisation and help our leading advanced manufacturing sector continue to grow."

UK Research & Innovation Chief Executive, Professor Sir Mark Walport said: "The Manufacturing Made Smarter challenge will boost the productivity of UK manufacturing by encouraging the adoption of digital technologies across a wide range of sectors. It will ensure the long-term prosperity of UK manufacturing and contribute to an increase in total productivity, making the UK a global leader of the 4th Industrial Revolution and delivering clean growth."

Juergen Maier CBE, Siemens UK CEO and Co-Chair of the Made Smarter Commission said: "This investment is an incredibly important step forward, helping our small manufacturers embrace the latest advanced and digital technologies at a very disruptive time for the industry. Through this challenge there is a real opportunity to boost national productivity and stimulate engineering entrepreneurship which will create the new high wage-high skilled jobs of the future."

Find out more about the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund:

This first competition of the Manufacturing Made Smarter challenge will fund projects that will help transform the productivity and agility of UK manufacturing, ready for a fast start and with the potential for rapid impact. Projects must be business led and collaborative, with all consortia involving at least one SME.

Projects must aim for rapid/short-term impact
The competition aims to support projects that can achieve short-term impact and rapid technology development through industrial digitalisation across a range of sectors from aerospace to food & drink and pharma.

Projects can be led by any sector, but must show how they could be applied to at least two other sectors.


They should fit into at least one of the four innovation themes:

1    Smart, connected factory, including: 
•    use of real-time data to optimise efficiency
•    capture, analysis and visualisation of manufacturing processes

2    Connected and versatile supply chain, including:
•    information integration, communication, traceability and trust

3    Design, make, test, including:
•    transforming product design through digital technologies
•    virtual product testing, verification, validation and modelling, quality monitoring and inspection

4    Adaptable flexible manufacturing operations and skills, including:
•    culture change and skills development to fully utilise technologies
•    human-centric automation and autonomy to enable expandable, flexible manufacturing systems

Manufacturing Made Smarter: Round 1 (fast start)
Competition information:
Up to £30 million is available for projects to transform the productivity and agility of UK manufacturing. Projects must have the potential for rapid impact. We are looking to fund a portfolio of projects, across a variety of technologies, markets, technological maturities and research categories.

•    the competition opens Wednesday 24 July 2019 and the deadline for applications is at midday on Wednesday 28 August 2019
•    we welcome a variety of project types, from feasibility studies to large innovation and/or demonstrator projects
•    projects should involve a mix of digital technologies, rather than focus on one specific technology
•    projects can be led by any industry sector, but must show they are applicable in at least 2 other sectors
•    businesses of any size may apply
•    projects must be business led and collaborative, with all consortia involving at least one SME – projects led by SMEs are encouraged
•    we expect projects to range in size between £250,000 and £10 million
•    projects can be of 6 months to 2 years duration
•    projects must be able to achieve rapid technology development and deployment – and must be ready to start on or before 1 December 2019, with a defined consortium agreement, agreed industry match funding and a project plan
•    a briefing event will be held on 30 July 2019

Find out more about this competition and apply:

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