Mat Wasley, Industrial Technologies lead for Innovate UK KTN and lead on Made Smarter Innovation Alley, looks at some of the innovative companies to have cut their teeth at the showcase event.
The cost of living crisis is having a huge impact on UK manufacturing and according to the S&P Global UK Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI), UK manufacturing growth hit its 16-month lowest rate in May 2022. However, among all this doom and gloom there are some great success stories coming out of the sector. Innovate UK KTN works with hundreds of innovative companies from across the UK (and further afield) who are creating smart factory digital technologies that are transforming manufacturing.
From artificial intelligence (AI) to machine learning, additive manufacturing to sensors and blockchain, robotics and immersive technologies to IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) these start-ups, scale-ups, university spin-outs and others are emerging across multiple industry sectors including medtech, chemistry, defence, nuclear, automotive, aerospace, food and drink and others. Many of these organisations started their journey on the Made Smarter Innovation Alley – a showcase of the most innovative, transformative technology companies in the UK that takes place each year as part of Smart Factory Expo at Digital Manufacturing Week. Funded by Innovate UK and through the support of KTN, 50 companies exhibit on Innovation Alley to:
- Reach the right audiences and build relationships with potential customers and partners (over 5,000 manufacturers attend Smart Factory Expo every year)
- Build partnerships that can make their digital technology solutions much more appealing to larger manufacturing customers
- Market test new ideas and solutions with the people who would be using them
A case in point
One such company is SupplyVue, a UK SME offering an analytics, modelling and planning solution that enables companies to achieve a data driven high performance supply network that is synchronised and sustainable. The company exhibited on Innovation Alley in 2021 and created over 70 leads at the show, but they also developed a strong network of collaborators and partners with other exhibitors on the alley and attendees.
SupplyVue’s Commercial Director, Kim Lloyd said: “Innovation Alley attracts audiences that want to know what leading tech is out there for the manufacturing industry. Obviously we went there to find customers but we also went to find out what others were doing across the industry, to test our solutions and identify potential collaboration partners.” Innovate UK KTN’s mission is to connect ideas, people and communities to drive innovation that changes lives. Its network of partners from across the full manufacturing ecosystem includes organisations such as Innovate UK, AMRC, Digital Catapult, Make UK, the MTC, IET, EPSRC and many others who provide collaborative opportunities to support start-ups, scale-ups and spinouts with the funding, knowledge and connections to help them develop and grow their businesses.
Matthew Wasley, Knowledge Transfer Manager at KTN added: “Our mission at KTN is to establish a network of innovators so powerful its ideas will change the world and the Innovation Alley Alumni is a huge part of that network. Over 200 past exhibitors are now part of the Innovation Alley Alumni which provides access to a wealth of support, brand exposure, funding and collaboration opportunities from across the innovation ecosystem across the UK and internationally.” FourJaw Manufacturing Analytics is also part of the Innovation Alley Alumni network. A spin-out of the AMRC, FourJaw’s mission is to deliver accessible technology that empowers manufacturers to achieve their productivity potential. Its cloudbased machine monitoring platform gives manufacturers real-time visibility of their shop floor, so they can make informed decisions that will reduce downtime, boost productivity and drive improvements to OEE (overall equipment effectiveness). Innovation Alley was hugely successful for FourJaw.
Not only did the company secure some great customers through conversations taking place on the stand, it also joined the investor pitching workshops delivered by Innovate UK KTN and using the insights derived from this workshop, refined its investor pitch. Although FourJaw didn’t receive any funding directly from the event, it went on to secure £1.3m in funding in April 2022 using the revised pitch deck. Chris Iveson, Founder and CEO of FourJaw said: “Innovation Alley was a game changer for us. We knew the show attracted an audience who were looking for smart factory technology so we were ready with our solutions and our pitch. Striking up relationships with new customers was a great opportunity for us and we are delighted to be working with them to maximise their manufacturing productivity.”
Chris Courtney, Made Smarter Innovation Challenge Director at Innovate UK added: “We require advanced digitalisation across design, manufacture and supply chains to fully deliver a productive, sustainable, resilient sector and there is a vibrant innovation ecosystem on this topic building. Innovation Alley is a brilliant opportunity for leading edge SMEs to engage with manufacturers and each other to form the kind of transformative collaborations needed to have maximum impact. It is always exciting and we are really looking forward to this year’s event.”
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