Promoting leading-edge UK innovation

Simon Edmonds looks forward to the excitement of meeting innovative early-stage businesses in Innovation Alley at Smart Factory Expo 2019; discusses the state-of-the-art work of the Catapults; and details the latest funding opportunities for manufacturing businesses with great ideas in aerospace, disruptive technology and late-stage development.

Innovation Alley

Innovate UK is very proud once again to be sponsoring this year’s Innovation Alley at Smart Factory Expo in Liverpool.

With more than 60 early-stage businesses exhibiting this year, Innovation Alley is an important platform for some of the UK’s most forward-thinking manufacturing start-ups to network and showcase their great ideas.

Innovation Alley at Smart Factory Expo 2018 - image courtesy of The Manufacturer.


Digital manufacturing

The High Value Manufacturing Catapult’s seven centres across the UK are working at the very cutting-edge of digital manufacturing.

One excellent example of the Catapult’s work is at the University of Sheffield’s

Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre where they are using CGI movie technology to create an Industry 4.0 digital operating theatre demonstrator.

This fascinating project, involving AMRC project engineers working closely with surgical teams, combines a virtual reality digital twin, projection mapping and smart tools, allowing the position of objects and clinicians to be accurately tracked in the theatre space, with relevant information displayed digitally using screens, projections and augmented reality devices.

Project engineer Rob Stacey demonstrates how smart tools and CGI movie technology combines in the Digital Operating Theatre demonstrator – image courtesy of AMRC.

Project engineer Rob Stacey demonstrates how smart tools and CGI movie technology combines in the Digital Operating Theatre demonstrator – image courtesy of AMRC.  


It is a proof-of-concept development, but the AMRC want companies in the healthcare sector to see what could be created – for example, surgical instrument prototypes – to develop further the range of technologies.

This article first appeared in the November issue of The Manufacturer magazine. Click here to subscribe

Now that the first phase of the project is in place, further phases will investigate refined tooling, track-and-trace technology, robotics and machine learning.

Project engineer Rob Stacey wears a virtual reality headset with his avatar in the Digital Operating Theatre shown on the screen behind him - image courtesy of AMRC.

Project engineer Rob Stacey wears a virtual reality headset with his avatar in the Digital Operating Theatre shown on the screen behind him – image courtesy of AMRC.


HVM Connect

To keep up to date with the very latest news from the HVMC, I recommend reading their bulletin HVM Connect.

Every issue includes news on the cutting-edge of high-value manufacturing from across the network of centres.

In the latest issue, there is an interesting piece from Danny McMahon, digital manufacturing team lead at the Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC), on the impact of augmented and virtual reality on the manufacturing process.

Danny goes into detail on the potential these technologies have to transform the manufacturing sector.

There is also an in-depth look at what innovation is, how to achieve it, and how the Catapult can help you get there, by the director of strategy and futures at the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI), Graham Hillier.


Current funding opportunities

Finally this month, I’d like to draw your attention to three funding opportunities for SMEs in aerospace, smart technology and innovative late-stage projects.

1. Civil aerospace research

UK micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) can apply for a share of up to £2.5m for industry-led civil aerospace research projects.

Innovate UK is working with the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS); together, we will invest up to £10m in aerospace innovation projects as part of the ATI Programme.

This competition is the first of four rounds. The deadline for applications is Wednesday, 4 December. Click here for more information.


2. Smart grants

Businesses can apply for a share of up to £25m to deliver ambitious or disruptive R&D innovations that can make a significant impact on the UK economy.

Applications for Innovate UK Smart grants can come from any area of technology and be applied to any part of the economy.

The deadline for applications is Wednesday, 8 January 2020. Click here for more information.


3. Late-stage game changers

Innovate UK is offering up to £10m in loans to SMEs. Loans are for highly innovative late-stage projects with the best game-changing and/or disruptive ideas or concepts. There should be a clear route to commercialisation and economic impact.

The deadline for applications is Wednesday, 27 November 2019. Click here for more information.

Innovate UK

Simon Edmonds, director - manufacturing, materials & future of mobility, Innovate UK.

For more information on any of Innovate UK’s funding opportunities, please contact the customer support service:

Feedback! All feedback gratefully received. I can be found on Twitter: @SJSEdmonds