Businesses with creative ideas to boost the UK's manufacturing capabilities are set to receive £300m of joint government and industry funding.
The funding was confirmed by Business Secretary Alok Sharma at London Tech Week today and will be used to fuel innovation in areas such as robotics, AI and augmented reality.
Almost half of the funding (£147m) will be invested by the government through the Manufacturing Made Smarter Challenge, with the remainder of the £300m to be provided by industry.
The funds will be used to help businesses reach new customers, slash carbon emissions, reduce prices for consumers, implement new technologies to boost their manufacturing productivity and create thousands of new highly skilled jobs.
Fourteen cutting-edge manufacturing projects from across the UK — whose applications for the ISCF Manufacturing Made Smarter Round 1 Competition were successful — will be the first to benefit, receiving a share of £50m of the government-industry funding. These projects involve a mix of SMEs, larger enterprises and universities.
One of the successful projects, the Digital Designer Robot, is aiming to provide machine-to-person ‘digital assistance.’ The idea is that when a business needs a bespoke product, it will be able to use a digital robot to help design it and then upload the design quickly onto a supplier’s website. The product can then be subsequently sampled, prototyped and manufactured by the supplier.
The virtual assistant would also be able to offer expert advice and guidance, ‘conversing’ with businesses and asking them questions, listening to their feedback, and providing 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 successful project, The Digital Sandwich, is creating a major piece of software where food and drinks businesses can connect online to share valuable data. This information exchange will increase productivity, improve cashflow, help boost food quality and reduce waste within in the supply chain.
Speaking about the funding, 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.”
More information on the ISCF Manufacturing Made Smarter Round 1 Competition winners can be found here.
*Header image courtesy of Shutterstock