At this year's Digital Manufacturing Week, Innovate UK launched its 2050 vison for materials and manufacturing, sharing its thoughts on how manufacturing might look in 30 years and on the challenges and opportunities that lie in front of the UK materials and manufacturing sectors. Paul Gadd, Deputy Director, Innovate UK explains.
We want to achieve three things in releasing this vision:
- Inspire: Create a shared vision platform, proposing aspirational and realistic manufacturing futures
- Involve: Provide an open structure for collaboration, making the opportunities for the UK visible and compelling
- Invest: Design innovative interventions and supporting policies to realise the vision, attracting UK inward investments.
We see manufacturing and materials as mission critical for the UK and the world. We must act now to hit climate targets, secure sustainable supply and improve productivity and prosperity. It’s a big challenge, but one we think is achievable and a huge opportunity for the UK. We have world class manufacturing, materials excellence, creativity and design expertise, digital excellence, leadership in standards and regulation, and an enviable network of research and technology organisations (RTOs) including the catapult centres.
New manufacturing and materials programme
Linked directly to the vision, Innovate UK is delighted to announce a new £15m programme focused on manufacturing and materials. Innovate UK will be investing in Resource Efficiency for Materials and Manufacturing, REforMM. The programme will focus on the delivery of resource efficient and competitive manufacturing and materials across sectors, with an initial £1m feasibility studies funding round in November 2022. Alongside this, Innovate UK and our partners, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, will invest in a £14m sister programme BIO-REforMM. This will focus on sustainable biomanufacturing at scale across sectors with the aim to displace petrochemical-derived materials and products. Again, an initial feasibility studies funding round will open in December 2022. Both programmes will look to inspire a common vision, involve aligned communities and invest to support innovation. Look out for more details in the next issue or head to the Innovate UK website to get involved.
Some fascinating projects have received almost £14m in combined backing from UK Research and Innovation’s latest funding opportunity under the Made Smarter innovation challenge, the Sustainable Smart Factory competition. The collaborative research and development competition sought to identify and support digital innovations to improve the sustainability of manufacturing processes, resulting in either reduced material or energy consumption. In total, 12 projects were successful in their applications, which involved securing between £1m and £8m in funding each. The projects offer solutions for a wide range of manufactured goods and industrial processes across a number of sectors spanning food, aerospace, automotive, plastics, electronics and various engineering disciplines.
THE SUSTAINABLE SMART FACTORY COMPETITION
The winners include:
- Project Butterfly brings together a consortium led by GKN Aerospace Services of UK manufacturing organisations, solution providers and research organisations, working across a number of UK sectors. They share best practice and demonstrate the power of Industry 4.0 to deliver nearterm impact on the road to net zero manufacturing.
- EdgeMethods and Victrex are developing reusable machine learning models to improve energy efficiency within an existing manufacturing plant, to both save on rising energy costs and help achieve sustainability objectives. Following a successful proof of science project, EdgeMethods will implement its ‘Energy of Things’ software as a service solution within the Victrex polymer manufacturing site in North West England.
- Eco-Sprint led by FitFactory Technology focuses on the aligned sustainability and productivity needs of manufacturing SMEs. Starting with a focus on energy intensive aerospace special finishing processes, it will go on to demonstrate scalability through deployment in other sectors. Projects will run for up to two years and are expected to open the door to significant carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) savings and a cleaner manufacturing economy.
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