£300 million investment to boost UK manufacturing productivity by 30%

11 September 2020

UKRI-stock-shot-100920-GettyImages-841574374 (Credit_TommL_GettyImages)_580x280
UKRI-stock-shot-100920-GettyImages-841574374 (Credit_TommL_GettyImages)_580x280

Businesses with creative ideas to boost UK manufacturing capabilities & capacity are set to receive £300M of joint government & industry funding, including £147M for Manufacturing Made Smarter to transform #UKMFG through the development & adoption of Industrial Digital Technologies (IDTs) – helping the sector build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic.

This investment will raise productivity by 30%, accelerate the drive to Net Zero emissions, create thousands of highly skilled jobs and allow the UK to shape the future of manufacturing.

Companies from Solihull to Flintshire will receive the £300 million government and industry funding boost, with projects to develop digital robots to weld metal parts and augmented reality headsets to help engineers make repairs to equipment set to benefit. The investment will give a crucial lift to aerospace, automotive, pharmaceuticals and food & beverage sectors as the UK builds back better from the coronavirus pandemic.

Business Secretary, Alok Sharma confirmed the £300m joint government and industry funding for businesses with creative ideas to boost the UK’s manufacturing capabilities, including using robotics, AI (artificial intelligence) and augmented reality (AR) at London Tech Week today (11 September 2020).

Through the Manufacturing Made Smarter Challenge, the government will invest £147 million – backed by further funding from industry – to support businesses implementing new tech to boost their manufacturing productivity, helping them reach new customers, create thousands of new highly skilled jobs, slash carbon emissions and reduce prices for consumers.

The first £50 million of the funding is being allocated to fourteen cutting-edge manufacturing projects involving around 30 small or medium businesses, 29 larger enterprises and nine universities, with the rest of the funds due over the next 5 years.

UK Research & Innovation (UKRI), through Innovate UK, the government’s innovation agency, has already awarded the challenge its first investment package of £20 million to 14 innovative projects in Round 1, comprising over 70 consortia partners in a competition to transform the productivity and agility of UK manufacturing. This initial £20m investment is enhanced by industrial investments worth £30m, giving a total value of £50m, and will fund innovative digital technology development in sectors including aerospace, automotive, pharmaceuticals, food & beverage, with new funding opportunities also now open to develop UK manufacturing digital supply chains of the future.  

A company behind one winning project – the Digital Designer Robot – aims to offer machine-to-person ‘digital assistance’. When a business needs a bespoke product, it will be able to use a digital robot to help design it and upload the design quickly onto a supplier’s website – so the product can then be sampled, prototyped and manufactured by the supplier. The virtual assistant would also offer expert advice and guidance, by ‘conversing’ with businesses to ask questions, listen to feedback and provide suggestions. This could reduce the time it takes to manufacture products, as well as cut costs and waste thanks to a more precise design process. Another is developing super lightweight, aluminium bikes for children, using robots, while another is pioneering the use of AI to help businesses design new products.

Business Secretary, Alok Sharma said: “Increasing productivity is vital for any business, and having the right new technologies in place can help manufacturers make better products to compete and thrive. By helping manufacturers to reduce costs, cut waste and slash the time it takes to develop their products, this multi-million pound uplift will help fire up the cylinders of productivity as we build back better from the pandemic.

Winning projects include:

Industrial digitisation of aluminium welding, transforming UK bicycle frame-building – Frog Bikes Ltd (Ascot, Berkshire – South East)

Frog Bikes is a British SME leading a project innovating the design of children’s bikes. Using the latest digital technologies and manufacturing techniques (for example virtual design and testing, and automated, robotic techniques to join bicycle components together), it will create a lighter, better performing bike. The system streamlines production, reduces cost, and, by allowing suppliers to use recycled materials, creates less waste. The project will bring these manufacturing techniques to the UK, securing control of the company’s supply chain and helping to reduce their carbon footprint.

The Digital Sandwich: digitised food supply chain, fusing IoT, Blockchain & AI data layers to improve productivity, traceability & reduce waste – Raynor Foods Ltd (Chelmsford, Essex – East of England)
Raynor Foods, an award-winning UK sandwich supplier who helped supply the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic, is leading a project to create the ‘Digital Sandwich’. This is the world’s first national and ‘open’ software platform: a major piece of software that smaller programs can operate within. Food & drinks businesses can connect online, using these programs to share valuable data – increasing productivity, improving cashflow, boosting food quality and reducing waste within the supply chain. This platform includes SMEs, who don’t usually have access to this kind of technology, and will benefit sectors including pharmaceutical, aerospace and automotive.

Smart Connected Shop Floor: real-time data integration with multi-sector applicability – GKN Aerospace (Bristol – South West)
GKN Aerospace is heading up a cross-sector team involving organisations from the aerospace, automotive and pharmaceutical industries to trial a combination of digital technologies in live manufacturing environments. These include artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies, intelligent robots, augmented reality (AR) headsets for engineers, so manufacturing businesses can guide them through repairs, and ‘smart’ devices that can exchange information between legacy and modern computer systems to enable a greater understanding of the data. This project will create a more seamless flow of real-time information, enabling cost-effective manufacturing decisions across the supply chain.

WeldZero – ATS Applied Tech Systems Ltd (Nuneaton, Warwickshire – West Midlands)
This project will explore the use of robots, sensors and automation to improve accuracy when welding metal parts on production line. The machines will also collect and feedback valuable data to help improve the manufacturing process, leading to stronger and higher-quality parts, as well as quicker production, in industries including automotive and construction.

DIALOG, Dynamic Integration of Automation with Logistic – Atlas Copco IAS UK Limited (Fintshire – Wales)
This project, led by Atlas Copco IAS, brings together affordable, automatic and human-interacting robots to help machines make quicker and better decisions, making production more efficient.

The projects include IDT concepts such as digital twin, additive manufacturing (such as 3D printing) and Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), with technologies spanning 4 key themes: smart connected factories; connected supply chains; flexible manufacturing operations; and design, make & test.

Today’s funding was announced at London Tech Week – an annual event celebrating innovation, talent and development of the tech sector.

The Manufacturing Made Smarter programme will also support technology SMEs through growth accelerators – partnerships between the government and the private sector, where experts will work with businesses to identify barriers to growth and ways to overcome them. It will also create a national network of innovation ‘hubs’, where businesses can partner or share advice, to help spur growth and creative ideas.

This announcement follows the opening of a competition in July under Manufacturing Made Smarter: Digital Supply Chain, where firms of all sizes can apply for up to 70% of the funding they need for industrial research projects.

The government has committed to raising productivity and earning power in the UK by spending 2.4% of GDP on R&D across the UK economy by 2027.

Rich Ingram, Director of funding recipient, Account Management Online Ltd said: “Moving beyond ready-made products available from online stores, AMO’s Digital Designer Robot provides the opportunity to define made-to-order products and get a price in real time, including bought in tooling, sub-assemblies and parts. We are excited how this capability delivers benefits in many industries where design requirements are unique, bringing faster, more available and resilient sales resource to customers to help them buy. Automation helps cut costs and create competitive advantage through immediate service response. Discontinuous innovation generates high rewards for taking high risks: we are proud to be working in partnership with Government helping us manage risks and support our R&D in this ground-breaking area to help us turn our ambitious ideas into real world solutions for selling to the benefit of UK PLC.

About the Manufacturing Made Smarter challenge
The Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) Manufacturing Made Smarter challenge programme will create a connected ecosystem harnessing the power of the UK's leading companies large and small, large technology developers and new start-ups and spinouts, and our world-leading research institutions, increasing the number of collaborations up the value chain. Find out more at: https://www.ukri.org/innovation/industrial-strategy-challenge-fund/manufacturing-made-smarter-challenge/

Chris Courtney, Challenge Director, ISCF Manufacturing Made Smarter at UKRI said: “Digital technologies have the power to radically transform how we manufacture and deliver the products and services of today and the future and I am delighted that we have managed to secure the funding for this vital programme. Our ambition is to support the UK to become a leader in the manufacturing industry and the development of the next generation of technology solutions that will shape how the world works.

The current COVID challenges all sectors are facing only underline the vital importance of manufacturing in the UK across all sectors. There are enormous opportunities to innovate in this area. We have world leading industries, a powerful scientific and research community, a vibrant technology sector and I’m excited to see how this powerful coalition transforms the future of manufacturing.

Hamid Mughal, Manufacturing Made Smarter Industrial Advisory Group Chair added: “We have tremendous Manufacturing capability in the UK and recent events have reinforced the importance of strengthening this sector for national resilience and economic growth. Rapid advances in digital and disruptive manufacturing technologies provide us with the perfect opportunity to shape this outcome. By harnessing the potential of this technology, we will be able to make a transformational improvement in productivity, sustainability and global competitiveness and create new products and services that forge modern digital enterprises. This programme is a key step forward as it will help UK manufacturing companies to jointly address this challenge and develop cost-effective digital solutions for deployment in our manufacturing Sector.
Round 2 of the challenge competition is now open – Manufacturing Made Smarter: Digital Supply Chain. Funding of £20m will support innovative feasibility studies and industrial research projects. SMEs can apply for up to 70% funding towards project costs. Applications close 7 October.

About the Manufacturing Made Smarter Round 1 Competition
The ISCF Manufacturing Made Smarter Round 1 Competition offered grant funding investment in projects that focus on the use of industrial digital technologies (IDTs) to transform the productivity and agility of UK manufacturing.

The competition supports innovation and deployment of IDTs across industry sectors via cross-sector collaboration and learning. All projects are business-led and collaborative, with all consortia involving at least one SME. Projects are of duration 6 to 24 months and focus on 1 or more of the following 4 innovation themes: smart connected factory; connected & versatile supply chain; design, make, test; adaptable, flexible manufacturing operations & skills.

Projects were required to impact at least 3 sectors, such as, but not limited to, the following: aerospace, automotive, chemicals, defence, digital, equipment & instrumentation, food & drink, pharma, oil & gas, space.

In total, 34 applications were submitted, totalling approximately £100M of total project spend. Following independent assessment and an expert review, 14 projects have progressed to start, comprising £50.5M of total project costs, including £20.1M total grant.

Round 1: confirmed competition winners – project title & lead organisation

Data-Driven Additive Manufacturing for Highly Regulated Industries - DAEDALUS
HIETA Technologies Ltd [Bristol - South West]

ATS APPLIED TECH SYSTEMS LTD [Nuneaton, Warwickshire – West Midlands]

Digital Integrated and Intelligent Continuous (bio) Manufacturing (DIICBM): An Explosion of Innovation
Perceptive Engineering Ltd [Warrington, Cheshire - North West]

Digital Servitization Demonstrator: From Sensor to Service to Business Success
Baxi Heating UK Ltd [Warwick – West Midlands]

Digital Design Accelerator Platform to Connect Active Material Design to Product
Astrazeneca UK Ltd [Cambridge – East of England]  

InTiFi - Industry 4 Technologies into Foundation Industries
Speciality Steel UK Ltd [Sheffield – South Yorkshire - Yorkshire and The Humber]

Next-generation Digital Design technology for Formulated Products involving complex materials
Process Systems Enterprise Ltd [London]  

The Digital Sandwich - Digitised Food Supply Chain, fusing IoT, Blockchain & AI data layers to improve productivity, traceability & reduce waste
Raynor Foods Ltd [Chelmsford, Essex – East of England]  

Smart Connected Shop Floor
GKN Aerospace [Bristol – South West]    

Rapid Sand Casting Production
Raplas Technologies Ltd [Ascot, Berkshire – South East]

DIALOG - Dynamic Integration of Automation with Logistic
Atlas Copco IAS UK Limited [Fintshire - Wales]

Digital Designer Robot: Assisted Self-Service Design for Customers in Bespoke Manufacturing
Account Management Online Ltd [Esher, Surrey - London]  

SIMPLE - Smart Information Platform & Ecosystem for Manufacturing  
Fully Distributed Systems Ltd [Loughborough, Leicestershire – East Midlands]      

Transformative industrial digitisation of UK frame-building  
Frog Bikes Ltd [Ascot, Berkshire – South East]

About the Manufacturing Made Smarter Round 2 Competition
Now open for applications, the ISCF Manufacturing Made Smarter: Digital Supply Chain competition offer funding for business-led consortia carrying out projects costing up to £3m to support the research and development of innovative digital technologies, and work with technology developers and manufacturers to rethink and restructure the way they design and operate manufacturing supply chains.

Businesses applying for the funding can look to improve results from existing supply chains, redesign or re-engineer supply chains or design completely new supply chain concepts for new products or processes.

Companies of any size may apply with the consortia including at least one SME. Projects can range in size from as little as £250,000 to £3million. SME technology developers or manufacturing companies can benefit from funding of up to 70% of their project costs. The projects can run for up to two years.

Application for feasibility studies
Find out more and apply at: https://apply-for-innovation-funding.service.gov.uk/competition/649/overview#summary

Application for industrial research
Find out more and apply at: https://apply-for-innovation-funding.service.gov.uk/competition/658/overview#summary

About UK Research & Innovation
UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish. We aim to maximise the contribution of each of our component parts, working individually and collectively. We work with our many partners to benefit everyone through knowledge, talent and ideas. https://www.ukri.org/

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