Simon Edmonds reports on a contract-winning Knowledge Transfer Partnership, the launch of Innovate UK podcasts covering robotics and AI, and a report mapping the rise of immersive technology.
I am always greatly encouraged to see successes coming out of the Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) scheme, where UK businesses team up with a university or research organisation and a graduate to work together on an innovation project.
The KTP programme has helped optical and photonics business Qioptiq win an £83m Ministry of Defence (MoD) contract to service night-vision equipment and open a new £3.7m warehouse in St Asaph, North Wales.
The six-year contract saves the MoD £47m and means Qioptiq will ensure vital night-vision equipment is available to UK armed forces around the globe.
The company’s success came after it realised it needed to take a more collaborative approach to its work and gain outside expertise on reducing costs through a leaner supply chain.
It entered into a KTP with Cardiff Business School and KTP associate Thanos Goltos, who worked for Qioptiq under the supervision of business school academics.
His expertise in inventory forecasting showed how the business could reduce its inventory by 25%.
Qioptiq designs and manufactures photonics products for a range of markets, including medicine, life science, defence, manufacturing and aerospace. It is part of US corporation Excelitas Technologies, which employs more than 500 people in North Wales.
The KTP was co-funded by the Welsh Government, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and Innovate UK. The Welsh Government also invested in the St Asaph warehouse.
To find out more about how KTPs work, please click here.
This article first appeared in the July/August issue of The Manufacturer magazine. To subscribe, please click here.
New robotics podcast
I strongly recommend the first in our series of Innovate UK podcasts that looks at robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) in extreme environments.
The increasing amount of work that needs to be done in extreme environments, such as deep mining, nuclear decommissioning and offshore energy means there are more and more applications for robotics and AI.
Wherever there’s an economic need, but it’s dangerous or impossible for people to work, there’s a place for robotics.
Solving these problems presents business opportunities and this excellent podcast looks at the issues in depth.
Manufacturing and Materials R&D winners
The full list of winners from our November 2017 sector funding competition has been published, and there are some excellent projects receiving Innovate UK backing.
Manufacturing and Materials projects received £9.5m in total, covering 29 projects. These included a project by Flexciton Ltd that will use an AI-based approach to optimise production planning and scheduling in manufacturing plants.
Another winner from Lumenisity Ltd, together with their partners at the University of Southampton, is an innovative approach with new optical fibre technology to increase data transmission rates.
A final example is Immaterial Labs Ltd, who with their partners at the University of Cambridge, are developing a new process to scale-up manufacture of ‘nonoporous’ materials known as ‘metal organic frameworks’, which will have a wide range of applications.
Immersive economy report
The growing role of technologies such as virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) is highlighted in an interesting new report sponsored by Innovate UK – The immersive economy in the UK.
The study is the first of its kind to map the UK’s strengths in these immersive technologies and their increasing use across many sectors of the economy, including advanced manufacturing.
For example, the report features an excellent case study from the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, which has been working with virtual reality technologies since 2003, and is part of a growing community of immersive technology companies in the region.
Its findings echo Juergen Maier’s Made Smarter Review, which detailed many ways that immersive technologies can and are beginning to make a huge difference in the manufacturing sector, from virtual prototyping and training, to ensuring smart interfaces enable seamless interoperablity across factories.