Innovation at the heart of Digital Manufacturing Week

Posted on 5 Apr 2023 by The Manufacturer

Paul Gadd, Deputy Director, Innovate UK, discusses the organisation’s latest news, including a look back at the activities from Digital Manufacturing Week 2022

Paul Gadd, Deputy Director, Innovate UK
Paul Gadd, Deputy Director, Innovate UK

With almost 4,000 people attending Digital Manufacturing Week in Liverpool last November, the show brought together thousands of manufacturers, experts, innovators, influencers, journalists and students across a series of 12 events over four days. The Innovate UK family was involved in lots of the events taking place.

I was particularly pleased to take the opportunity to discuss the latest thinking behind Innovate UK’s 2050 Manufacturing Vision with its strong focus on reimagining materials and manufacturing.

My colleague Megan Ronayne, Head of Innovate UK KTN’s manufacturing team, also ran diversity and inclusion discussion roundtables with key leaders from across industry at the Manufacturing Leaders’ Summit.

The Made Smarter Innovation Alley housed 46 innovative industrial digital technology (IDTs) companies creating solutions across the five Made Smarter IDT areas: AI, Robotics and Automation, IOT and Data, VR & AR and Additive Manufacturing.

The alley was the beating heart of Smart Factory Expo, showcasing a number of exciting technologies tackling new challenges and providing different ways of working. It captured the interest of almost everyone who attended the show. A STEM tour for schools, arranged on day two to inspire the manufacturers and engineers of the future, perused the alley for inspiration.

Twenty-one companies from Innovation Alley took part in a bespoke investor readiness programme, receiving training on developing a value proposition, what investors are looking for and how to pitch their innovation. The companies prepared one-page investment summaries which were sent to investors in advance of the event and their pitch was recorded. One company was approached by an investor ahead of the pitching, based solely on the one-page summary. Introductions between investors and companies are ongoing.

The Made Smarter Innovation Theatre at Smart Factory Expo attracted a wide audience of manufacturers, innovators, academia and experts to share case studies. In a series of seminars they explored topics such as perspectives on the main challenges and opportunities for diversity and inclusion in manufacturing, introducing the research centres involved in the programme and the launch of the three main competitions.

One of the key highlights from the show was the ‘Manufacturing Wall’ where visitors to the show were asked to answer the question – ‘What does manufacturing mean to you?’ It was interesting to see the diverse and well thought out comments, from people and opportunity, to innovation and sustainability.

To find out more about the vision or work with us for future events they can find out more here Manufacturing – Innovate UK KTN ( 

New funding call to develop new robotic and automation solutions in UK manufacturing 

The Made Smarter Innovation Challenge, delivered by Innovate UK, has launched a new £6 million late-stage robotics and automation industrialisation funding call for collaborative research and development. Projects can seek grant funding for project values up to £4 million.  

The competition is open to applications from projects that:  

  • Are robotic or automation focused within a factory production area 
  • Focused on value-adding production tasks or related movement between process 
  • Be an innovative digital development  
  • Help production activities or related processes within UK manufacturing to become more productive, sustainable, and resilient.  

The Made Smarter Innovation Challenge is working to deliver a resilient, flexible, more productive, and environmentally sustainable UK manufacturing sector. As part of the national Made Smarter initiative, the Challenge will support the transformation of UK manufacturing by pioneering the development and integration of new and existing industrial digital technologies (IDTs).  

Applications will open on 18th January and close in early April 2023. All projects must be business-led, involving a collaborative consortium with UK partners only. Participants can be any size organisation and can include Universities or RTOs. The full scope will be available on the Innovation Funding Service.  

Other funding opportunities 

Innovation Loans Future Economy Competition: Round 8
Innovate UK is offering up to £25m in loans to micro, small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). Loans are for highly innovative late stage research and development (R&D) projects with the best potential for the future. There should be a clear route to commercialisation and economic impact. 

Your project must lead to innovative new products, processes or services that are significantly ahead of others currently available, or propose an innovative use of existing products, processes or services. It can also involve a new or innovative business model. 

Industrialising net zero automotive technology 

UK registered businesses can apply for a share of up to £20 million for late-stage R&D projects that help accelerate the UK towards a net zero automotive future.  

In this competition the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) is investing up to £20m. They are looking for collaborative, pre-production research and development (R&D) projects. For more information please see APC23: industrialising net zero automotive technology – UKRI 

Innovate UK Smart grants 

Innovate UK is investing up to £25 million in the best game-changing and world-leading ideas, designed for swift, successful commercialisation. Ideas need to be genuinely new and novel, not just disruptive within their sector. For more information please see Competition overview – Innovate UK Smart grants: January 2023 – Innovation Funding Service ( 

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