Made smarter innovation challenge

Supervisor checking manufacturing robot

This challenge will support the transformation of UK manufacturing by pioneering the development and integration of new and existing industrial digital technologies (IDTs), including artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality.

The challenge aims to deliver a resilient, flexible, more productive and environmentally sustainable UK manufacturing sector. It will also develop new technologies that can be exploited commercially across the manufacturing industry, worldwide.

The £147 million investment, matched by a minimum of £147 million from industry, will support manufacturers and technology developers to:

  • prove their ideas
  • quickly develop with experts
  • scale ‘out of the box’ digital technology solutions.

Read more about the £147 million investment in smarter innovation.

This challenge helps take the risk out of innovation for UK manufacturers who want to make change happen by supporting collaborations between UK manufacturing sectors to create innovative digital solutions, with the help of leading industry experts in digital technologies. Key digital technologies in this challenge include:

  • artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analytics
  • additive manufacturing
  • robotics and automation
  • virtual reality and augmented reality
  • the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) and connectivity (5G, LPWAN).

We are funding projects in:

  • smart connected factories
  • connected and versatile supply chains
  • adaptable, flexible manufacturing operations and skills
  • new ways to design, test and make products.

Video credit: UKRI
On-screen captions and an autogenerated transcript is available on YouTube.

Made smarter innovation programmes

Collaborative research and development projects

Three rounds of collaborative research and development projects will result in £60 million of grant funding for digital innovations in manufacturing. Projects will bring together partners of all sizes, with skill sets spanning technology development organisations and manufacturing businesses. Projects will work in close partnership over a period of up to two years to develop, test and refine digital technologies that will deliver results in manufacturing settings.

Round one of funding, launched in 2019, has been awarded, with £20 million for 14 cutting-edge projects, totalling £50 million of activity. Funded projects include:

  • the first national and ‘open’ software platform for businesses to connect online
  • ‘smart’ devices that can exchange information between old and modern production equipment and operating systems to enable a greater understanding of the data.

Read the full list of round one winners.

Round two of funding has been awarded, with £18 million for 27 feasibility study projects and 10 industrial research activities. Funded projects include a cloud-based, digitally enabled supply chain via a digital platform that will monitor how much carbon is created through the supply chain, in order to reduce emissions.

Read the full list of round two winners.

A funding call for round three will be launched in the last quarter of 2021. Projects will be based on smart factories with a focus on sustainable solutions.

Made Smarter technology accelerator

The Made Smarter technology accelerator is a national programme, set to shape the technology innovation for the manufacturing sector. Working with both manufacturers and innovative UK startups and scaleups, the programme will see leading innovators develop technology prototypes that will pivot some of the UK’s most prevalent manufacturing challenges.

Find out more about the programme delivered by Digital Catapult.

Made Smarter Innovation hubs

The innovation hubs are a national network of facilities available to the manufacturing industry, to develop, demonstrate and test digital solutions for manufacturing and supply chains.

The £3 million pilot programme delivered three fast start testbeds.

Made Smarter smart factory test bed, delivered by High Value Manufacturing Catapult, enables businesses to test the latest digital manufacturing solutions in a broad range of applications, before investment.

Learn more about the Made Smarter smart factory test bed.

Made Smarter market place, delivered by Swansea University, developed an online marketplace, designed to optimise manufacturing supply chain networks and create a new industry-wide business model.

Learn more about the Made Smarter market place.

Digital validation and verification test bed delivered by the National Physical Laboratory has developed a digital demonstrator that is capable of evaluating PPE performance against selected standard requirements.

The £30 million full programme continue to develop a vibrant digital manufacturing ecosystem at a larger scale.

Digital Catapult will deliver the £10 million Made Smarter innovation digital supply chain innovation hub. This four-year programme will create an effective and integrated ecosystem to develop new solutions and transform manufacturing. The hub is designed to drive innovation for all potential users, including large and small technologies providers and manufacturers. It will also form part of a national network, make up of cluster of test beds, living labs and other developmental environments.

The winner of the £20 million smart factory innovation hub will be announced at a later date.

Made Smarter Innovation standards

This £250,000 programme will implement guidance for emerging digital industries to promote the greater abilities of industrial digital technologies (IDT), including cyber awareness and best practice. The programme will identify gaps in the current regulations and build on existing standard through:

  • workshops
  • guides
  • helpful tools.

The programme will create a common open standards environment for manufacturing IDTs will be established which will allow developers and users to rapidly exploit the benefits of IDT whilst minimising operational and cyber risks.

Made Smarter Innovation network

This network, delivered by the Knowledge Transfer Network, is a national programme for manufacturers looking to innovate, and the developers of innovative digital technologies and solutions.

It will deliver a vision of UK manufacturing that is more productive, competitive and sustainable through the development of a powerful ecosystem of innovative industrial digital technology providers.

Learn more about Made Smarter and join the network.

Research programmes


This £4 million ESRC-led programme is a network for academics from the economic and social sciences to support the innovation and diffusion of digital technologies that will result in a stronger, more resilient UK manufacturing industry.

The network will be led by co-directors:

  • Professor Jan Godsell of Loughborough University
  • Professor Jill MacBryde of the University of Strathclyde.

The programme will run from November 2021 to December 2024.

Made Smarter Innovation research centres

This £25 million programme will see five university-led research centres help the UK’s manufacturing industry become more productive and competitive through innovation and adoption of digital technologies. As well as being at the forefront and driving developments in their areas of expertise, these research centres will help bridge the gap between basic research and its application in manufacturing. This will provide a pipeline of digital technologies for the future.

Made Smarter Innovation Research Centre for Connected Factories

This centre aims to deliver a platform for next generation resilient connected manufacturing services. It will allow future manufacturing operations to be delivered by universal production units that can be easily repurposed, relocated and redeployed in response to changing market demand.

Led by:

  • University of Nottingham
  • University of Cambridge
  • University of Sheffield.

Made Smarter Innovation Digital Medicines Manufacturing Research Centre

This centre will accelerate the adoption of IDTs in the pharma sector to transform medicines development and manufacturing productivity and drive patient-centric supply.

Led by:

  • University of Strathclyde
  • University of Cambridge
  • Loughborough University.

Made Smarter Innovation Materials Made Smarter Research Centre

This centre will focus on the digitisation of the materials, to:

  • drive productivity improvements in materials intensive industries
  • realise new business models
  • change the way we value and use materials.

Led by:

  • University of Sheffield
  • University of Cambridge
  • University of Nottingham
  • Brunel University London
  • Swansea University.

Made Smarter Innovation People-led Digitalisation

The centre will create a step-by-step cross-sectorial process for manufacturers to map their current digitalisation position. From the findings, they will plan their future state map to realise the potential of digitalisation.

Led by:

  • University of Bath
  • University of Nottingham
  • Loughborough

Made Smarter Innovation Research Centre for Smart, Collaborative Industrial Robotics

This centre aims to advance smart manufacturing by eliminating barriers and accelerating widespread use of smart collaborative robotics technology to unlock the full potential of the UK industry in productivity, quality, and adaptability.

Led by:

  • Loughborough University
  • Strathclyde
  • Cranfield University
  • University of Bristol
  • University of Warwick.

Made smarter innovation was previously known as ‘manufacturing made smarter’.

Last updated: 27 June 2022

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