Innovation Alley – where smart collaboration happens

Fresh ideas in manufacturing are what keeps this industry vibrant and moving towards the future, and at Innovation Alley, running through the heart of Smart Factory Expo, there was no shortage of new and exciting businesses trying to stand out from the crowd.

Innovation Alley is a densely-packed networking space where entrepreneurs pitch their innovations direct to attendees from ‘micro booths’ in a concentrated dose of ideas, energy and opportunity.

In 2019, the space hosted 49 start-ups and early-stage businesses, and has grown to become a central aspect of Smart Factory Expo – the largest digital manufacturing show in Europe, which runs throughout Digital Manufacturing Week in November.

Innovation Alley 2019 - image courtesy of The Manufacturer

This Innovate UK-sponsored space serves as the backbone for SFE, quite literally running through the centre of eight key Visitor Zones including Industrial Automation; Digital Transformation; Supply Chain & Logistics; Industrial Data; and Smart Factory.

Here, tech start-ups are given a free platform to pitch their ideas and build partnerships with other digitally minded manufacturers.

“It provides a showcase for some of the most innovative manufacturing entrepreneurs and SMEs, several of whom we have helped, who are seeing the commercial potential in new technologies and turning them into new products and services,” said Innovate UK’s Deputy Executive Chair and Chief Business Officer Simon Edmonds, who praised The Manufacturer for taking the partnership on.

“Innovation Alley highlights the strength of UK innovation in manufacturing. It is also a great platform for Innovate UK to highlight the support we can provide to companies and reach out to new businesses who may not have heard of us or realised the opportunities are available,” he added.

Make Thread

One such enterprise benefitting from the exposure afforded by Innovation Alley is Make Thread, a Liverpool-based ‘fashion movement’ that provides an online social marketplace for designers hoping to break into the industry without the requirement of upfront money and manufacturing capabilities.

Designers are encouraged to create an online presence via social media content and brand-forward thinking, then campaign for greater exposure using Make Thread’s fashion community, who in turn manufacture products based on the response.

Make Thread at Innovation Alley 2019 - image courtesy of The Manufacturer

The all-female co-director duo said this formula, “drastically cuts down on production wastage”.

Virtual Reality start-up

RealSpace Ltd, another addition to the Innovation Alley exhibition, is a relatively small team of pragmatic immersive technologists who founded the start-up in 2016 by venturing into the world of Virtual Reality (VR) technologies.

Their compact, light-weight device allows for an immersive experience without the requirement of head movement, controllers or other complexities.

Their ‘SingleReality’ optical headset can be applied to almost any household media device, from a TV and game console, to a laptop and mobile phone, delivering “deeper, sharper and crisper imaging”.

The start-up said they were pleased to be able to represent their technology at the Smart Factory Expo in an industry that is rife with competition, and they hoped that the experience would secure the extra funding they require to develop their technology further.

Smart locker

iLockerz Ltd put on a good show with their impressive range of secure equipment storage, device charging and asset management technologies.

The smart locker systems digitally track the status, location and condition of any and all tools across a multitude of industries via sophisticated RFID tagging and computer software, which iLockerz will install and service, as well as and provide the necessary personnel training.

Their customer base ranges from construction workers through to the defence sector, and in addition to regular updates on the status of a company’s inventory, thereby improving productivity and overall efficiency, every aspect of the technology is designed and manufactured here in the UK.

Exploiting machine intelligence

DAJO Solutions marketed themselves well at Innovation Alley this year and certainly gave other industry leaders in automation technology a run for their money.

DAJO Solutions at Innovation Alley 2019 - image courtesy of The Manufacturer

Sales manager, Mark Whitehead, told The Manufacturer that DAJO was involved in the development and exploitation of machine intelligence for industry purposes and that the company had recently won Eaton’s Lean Solution Partner of the year award for their endeavours.

DAJO routinely implements new hardware or smart device technologies for its customers, “delivering practical automation solutions from theoretical possibilities”, he said.

Industries they work with include defence, construction, automotive, off highway, manufacturing, food production and storage, with remits covering cost reduction, quality management, safety enhancement, efficiency increase and fail-safe systems.

Whitehead said with the emergence of Industry 4.0 it was an exciting time to be in the business of automation and that he was happy to have a chance to represent DAJO at Innovation Alley 2019.

Innovation Alley is hosted by UKRI Innovate UK, and supported by High Value Manufacturing Catapult; Science & Technologies Facilities Council; Made Smarter; and Enterprise Europe Network.