Virtual Reality: Ground control to major surgery

Simon Edmonds explores how virtual reality is helping train medical students remotely and highlights further funding initiatives currently being awarded to tackle the impact of COVID-19.

In last month’s column three manufacturing projects funded through the Innovate UK COVID-19 fast-start competition were featured.

Another excellent example of a project currently gaining funding is one where Industry 4.0 technologies, that once remotely guided the Mars Rover millions of miles from Earth, are now being used to create a virtual reality platform to remotely train medical students and transform how surgery is observed.

The project is between machine vision company i3D robotics and the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), part of the High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult.

Stereo Theatre will build on the work already done by the Medical AMRC in Rotherham where an Industry 4.0 Digital Operating Theatre proof of concept has been built.


A virtual reality vr digital twin demonstrated at the AMRC’s Digital Operating Theatre


The demonstrator combines a virtual reality (VR) digital twin, projection mapping and smart tools that enables 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 (AR) devices.

Both i3Dr and the AMRC believe the technology could transform surgery and teaching by enhancing the way medical students can learn remotely, performing simulated surgeries on a virtual reality training platform.

You can read more about this project here.

Additional projects awarded funding to tackle the impact of the Coronavirus

In addition to the more than 800 projects already announced, a further 53 projects will receive £2.6m between them from the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) in response to COVID-19.

This takes the total number of UK business receiving grants from Innovate UK in the wake of the pandemic to over 900.

These projects will demonstrate benefits to society and industries that have been severely impacted and/or permanently disrupted by the Coronavirus. Two examples are:

  • Figment Productions will work on an alternative to touch screens in public places, where pathogens can live for days.
  • Toshiba Europe will work on a fleet of logistic robots capable of autonomously coordinating delivery of vital supplies in ad-hoc arenas, such as the Nightingale hospitals.

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

Funding secured for Derby facility

It is very welcome news that the Nuclear AMRC’s proposal to establish a new advanced manufacturing research centre in Derby has secured government funding.

The proposal, supported by Derby City Council and the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership, has been awarded £6.85m by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government.

Local partners will also invest in the proposed £20m project to create a new permanent home on Derby’s Infinity Park for Nuclear AMRC Midlands, creating 70 jobs and helping to reboot the local economy after the Coronavirus crisis.

This will be the first High Value Manufacturing Catapult facility in the East Midlands region.

Latest funding opportunities

 Manufacturing Made Smarter

Business-led consortia can apply for a share of up to £20m in funding towards the transformation of digital supply chains in UK manufacturing.

This funding from the ISCF is open to technology and manufacturing business across all manufacturing sectors, such as Pharmaceutical to Aerospace and Automotive to Food & Beverage, who are looking to improve results from existing supply chains, redesign or re-engineer supply chains or design completely new supply chain concepts for new products or processes.

By adopting new digital technologies within supply chains, it can result in a more efficient process, enabling business to expand into new markets and boost productivity within the UK.

Projects can cover digital innovation in supply chain design or execution, ranging from a focus on sustainable supply chains for increased flexibility, new business models that affect the configuration of the supply chain to delivery performance and improved decision-making through analytics.

This opportunity comprises of two strands running at the same time: feasibility studies and industrial research.

The closing date of the competition is 7 October. For more information, click here.


Transforming Foundation Industries

UK registered businesses can apply for a share of £8m in grant funding for projects supporting recovery and growth of the UK’s foundation industries, helping them remain globally competitive and become more environmentally sustainable.

The deadline for applications is 4 November. For more information, click here. 

Innovate UK

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

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

All feedback gratefully received – I blog here, and can also be found on Twitter: @SJSEdmonds

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

0300 321 4357 | support@innovateuk.gov.uk | www.innovateuk.gov.uk


*All images courtesy of Innovate UK