The Investment Minister, Lord Grimstone, revealed this week that 5 new digital projects and manufacturing research institutes will get £53 million in new government investment to develop and implement digital manufacturing technology.

The funding came from the UK government’s Made Smarter programme, a partnership with businesses, to promote the development and adoption of new technology. Utilizing new data-driven innovations like AI and blockchain in supply-chains, or collaborative robots and smart machines in manufacturing would help manufacturers increase productivity, sustainability, and speed-up the post-pandemic recovery process.

An industry-sponsored research facility at the University of Strathclyde will help accelerate the development of cutting-edge digital technologies that can revolutionise industrial enterprises across several sectors.

They will work at institutions across the UK to improve supply networks’ speed, efficiency, and resilience. Some of the aspects of innovative production covered by the centres are :

The Smart, Collaborative Industrial Robotics Research Centre – across Strathclyde, Warwick, Loughborough, Cranfield and Bristol Universities – will aim to reduce barriers to robotics adoption and speed up production.

To develop a ‘Morphing Factory,’ the Connected Factories Research Centre (Nottingham, Cambridge, and Sheffield Universities) will cooperate with beverage makers who repurposed their manufacturing lines to make hand sanitizer during the pandemic.

Innovations in materials and manufacturing methods are required to become more sustainable and contribute to net zero emissions. The ‘Materials Made Smarter Research Centre’ at Cambridge, Sheffield and Loughborough Universities will focus on overcoming technological barriers to adoption.

Researchers from Bath, Nottingham, and Loughborough Universities will work on a ‘People-Led Digitalisation’ program, to enhance manufacturing productivity by increasing producers’ digital knowledge and awareness.

With the Digital Medications Manufacturing Research Centre at Strathclyde, Loughborough and Cambridge Universities, research will focus on medicines that can be given on-demand and improving the flexibibilty of clinical trials.

A further £18 million has been given to 37 winning projects in the Digital Supply Chain Competition, to help improve manufacturing supply networks’ productivity and sustainability.

Lord Grimstone commented “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.”