UKRI invests £33m in Made Smarter innovation hubs

Two engineers working on a manufacturing project

UK Research and Innovation is investing £33 million into the Made Smarter Innovation Hub programme.

Made Smarter innovation hubs are set to accelerate digital innovation in the manufacturing sector, boost recovery and enhance productivity and sustainability.

They are designed to support innovative manufacturers and technology providers of all sizes to co-create transformative digital solutions across manufacturing and supply chains.

The innovation hubs will develop a national network, or cluster, of existing facilities. These will be accessible by the industry to develop, demonstrate and test digital solutions for manufacturing and supply chains, accelerating innovation and deployment of new digital solutions.

This programme is a pillar for innovation within the Made Smarter strategy. It aims to:

  • create a connected ecosystem
  • harness the power of the UK’s leading manufacturing companies, technology developers, start-ups and research institutions
  • increase the number of collaborations up the value chain.

Innovation hub activities

Smart Factory Innovation Hub (£20 million)

This hub will focus on digital technologies and solutions that optimise the design and execution of current and future factories.

Digital Supply Chain Innovation Hub (£10 million)

This hub will focus on technologies and solutions that optimise manufacturing supply chains to become more efficient, productive, flexible, resilient and sustainable. The hub will identify and develop testbeds and reusable methodologies for integrating and improving supply chain networks, both existing and new.

UK manufacturing companies, large and small, are encouraged to use these facilities to try out new ideas and develop custom solutions for themselves and technology developers who wish to test new software and systems to achieve certification and demonstrate solutions to potential users.

The expression of interest for setting up and managing these innovation hubs is now live:

Manufacturing Made Smarter Innovation Hub – Smart Factory EoI

Manufacturing Made Smarter Innovation Hub – Digital Supply Chain EoI

A webinar briefing event will be hosted by KTN on 25th November. Register on the KTN website.

A Concepts & Collaboration Building workshop will be held on 1st December to learn more about the concepts underlying the Innovation Hub strategy. Register on the KTN website.

Fast Start Test Hubs

As part of the Innovation Hub activities, three fast start testbed pilots have been developed to set up testbeds that will be up and running to enable a quick start for the Innovation Hubs.

Smart Factory Test Bed

This will be delivered by High Value Manufacturing Catapult. This project will consist of sixteen physical and virtual hubs in existing HVM Catapult facilitates, testing quick-fire projects and early-stage technologies in a safe, industry-like environment.

Each Smart Factory Innovation Hub will offer:

  • A sandpit environment for businesses to innovate, develop and de-risk rapidly configurable projects and industrial digital technologies before they are deployed in their own facilities
  • Technology testbed: a ‘plug and play’ space for manufacturing technology providers to test, develop and showcase their solutions on industry use cases. The technology testbed will use the HVM Catapult’s world-class equipment and facilities, and allow providers to test and iterate minimal viable products
  • Demonstrators of integrated technology solutions where businesses can experience new technologies. The Innovation Hubs will showcase real industry use-cases and facilitate live-learning in an expert environment

Digital Supply Chain Marketplace

This will be delivered by Swansea University, partner with Warwick Manufacturing Group and Manufacturing Technology Centre. The team are developing a pilot online marketplace designed to optimise manufacturing supply chain networks and create a new industry-wide business model.

This new platform will seek to better connect manufacturers and suppliers, enabling a streamlined product/process sourcing and selection service tailored to industry needs, with the support of the Institute for Innovative Materials, Processing and Numerical Technologies (IMPACT).

This testbed will act as a template for other marketplaces to be created to serve other sectors.

Digital Validation & Verification

This will be delivered by National Physical Laboratory (NPL), partnered with the University of Birmingham and Kings College London. This project will develop a digital demonstrator that, once refined, will be capable of evaluating PPE performance against selected standard requirements.

The testbed will result in the potential to integrate distributed ledger technology in future projects for end-to-end supply chain verification.

Rejuvenate manufacturing processes

Business and Industry Minister Nadhim Zahawi said:

Digital technologies play a crucial role in helping manufacturers work more efficiently to develop higher-quality products and services.

By bringing together some of the brightest minds from the manufacturing and technology industries, these Innovation Hubs will support our ambition to rejuvenate manufacturing processes, build back better and boost productivity in UK manufacturing by 30% by 2030.

Chris Courtney, Manufacturing Made Smarter 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. This is more vital than ever given the current challenges of the pandemic and climate change and there are enormous opportunities to innovate across all manufacturing sectors.

We have world-leading industries, a powerful scientific and research community, a vibrant technology sector and these Innovation Hubs are being designed to bring that powerful coalition together.

I’m excited to see how this powerful coalition of innovators will come together to co-create the future solutions needed.

Further information

The Manufacturing Made Smarter challenge harnesses the transformative power of the UK ecosystem. It aims to deliver a connected, resilient, more productive, and environmentally sustainable UK manufacturing sector.

Using new technologies, the challenge increases the sustainability of the UK manufacturing industry, creating more reusable resources and reducing waste and carbon emissions.

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