Chris Courtney, Made Smarter Innovation Challenge Director, UKRI, explains the origins and goals behind the Made Smarter Innovation programme.
The Made Smarter initiative was announced back in 2017 with the Made Smarter Review. Led by Juergen Maier, the review outlines how the UK manufacturing industry can be transformed through industrial digital technologies (IDTs). The review focuses on three strategic challenges: the increased pace of adoption of industrial digital technologies, the faster innovation of these technologies, and a need for stronger and more ambitious leadership to transform the UK industry. From this, the three key pillars of Made Smarter was created: Adoption, Innovation and Leadership and Skills. The aims for the Innovation pillar were to refocus the existing innovation landscape by increasing capacity and capability through several Innovation Hubs, largescale demonstrators and research centres.
Introducing Made Smarter Innovation
In September 2021, the national Made Smarter Innovation programme officially launched as part of UK Research and Innovation’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. The £147m investment, with industry co-investment creating a total £300m investment, will support manufacturers and technology developers to rapidly develop and scale digital technology solutions. We will create a connected innovation ecosystem that puts people at the heart of digitalisation and create the future we want. Our mission is to build a digital innovation ecosystem that supports UK innovators and manufacturers. We hope that this empowers the sector to validate, develop and launch their ideas. Funded through the programme, we have created a network of innovation opportunities for the UK manufacturing industry to get involved.
Harnessing the transformative power of innovative IDTs The Made Smarter Innovation Network was launched in early 2021 to create a community of digital solution developers and integrators and connect them to manufacturing across industry sectors. Delivered by KTN, the network will connect the UK manufacturing ecosystem, bringing together the funding landscape and showcasing collaboration opportunities. The network will give innovation support, helping to access testbeds and demonstrators.
Advancing innovation and understanding of digital technologies
Delivered by Digital Catapult, the Made Smarter Technology Accelerator is a national programme set to shape technology innovation for the manufacturing sector. Working with manufacturers and innovative UK startups and scale-ups, the programme has supported the development of technology prototypes that will pivot some of the UK’s most prevalent manufacturing challenges. During the final showcase hosted by Digital Catapult in December, four MVPs developed through the course of the programme were exhibited at a showcase event.
Bringing academics and manufacturers together
The InterAct Network will bring together economic and social scientists, UK manufacturers and digital technology providers to address the human issues employers face resulting from the diffusion of new technologies in industry. Co-directed by Professor Jan Godsell of Loughborough University and Professor Jill MacBryde of the University of Strathclyde, InterAct will look at the social and economic factors that will be hugely influential in achieving a more productive and competitive ecosystem to help reach net zero. Having launched in early December, InterAct is now looking for researchers and industry to get in touch.
Revolutionising the manufacturing supply chain
The Made Smarter innovation hubs are a national network of facilities available to the manufacturing industry to develop, demonstrate and test digital solutions for manufacturing and supply chains. The hubs will encourage people to interact, create, undertake, work and innovate together in a network, exchanging vast amounts of knowledge in addition to sharing views and strategies.
Digital Catapult will deliver the £10m digital supply chain innovation hub. This four-year programme will create an effective and integrated ecosystem to develop new solutions and transform manufacturing. The hub is aimed at generating business between start-ups and large companies and helping in the development of technology-based companies with high growth potential. It is due for launch early this year. A second innovation hub is due to be announced later in 2022.
Collaborative research and development
As part of the Made Smarter Innovation programme, we are funding three rounds of collaborative research and development projects that will result in £60m of grant funding for digital innovations in manufacturing. Projects will bring together partners of all sizes, with skill sets spanning technology development organisations and manufacturing businesses.
Projects will work in close partnership for up to two years to develop, test and refine digital technologies that will deliver results in manufacturing settings. So far, the programme has supported 51 innovative projects including: Raynor Foods’ ‘Digital Sandwich’ project will be the first national and ‘open’ software platform for businesses to connect online.
SupplyVue’s digital platform, CarbonVue, will provide visibility of carbon in the whole supply chain and provide a framework to foster greater collaboration to reduce carbon emissions GSK Limited are leading on the SmartPSC project, where the application of digital technologies will be applied to integrate and enhance the pharma manufacturing supply chain.
Bridging the gap between research and manufacturing
As set out in the Made Smarter review, the innovation programme has supported the development of five university-led research centres. As well as being at the forefront and driving developments in their areas of expertise, these research centres will help bridge the gap between basic research and its application in manufacturing, providing a pipeline of digital technologies for the future.
Research Centre for Connected Factories, led by University of Nottingham, develops new digital manufacturing infrastructure that can autonomously morph into different configurations to meet specific product and volume requirements, supply chain variations and distributions.
Digital Medicines Manufacturing Research Centre, led by the University of Strathclyde, aims to create digital supply chains that enable medicines to be developed, manufactured and supplied on demand, and enable clinical trials to operate more flexibly and efficiently.
Materials Made Smarter Research Centre, led by University of Sheffield, focuses on the digitalisation of the materials to drive productivity improvements, realise new business models and change the way we value and use materials.
Research centre of people-led digitalisation, led by University of Bath, creates a step-bystep cross-sector process for manufacturers to realise the potential of digitalisation.
Centre for Smart, Collaborative Industrial Robotics, led by Loughborough University, maximises the joint effectiveness of human machine collaboration by safely eliminating the social and technical barriers and enriching their common understanding of each other’s capabilities and intentions. While all these programmes can stand alone, together, they represent a pathway from applied research to industrial-scale solutions, and more work is to come over the next few years as we develop the Global and Standards strands of the programme.
By partnering with experts, makers and digital solution companies alike, we can come together and completely transform the face of manufacturing. Made Smarter Innovation is here to help prove your idea, develop it with experts and scale it faster.
For more information on Made Smarter Innovation, visit www.madesmarter.uk
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