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Government invests £147m in Manufacturing Made Smarter to transform UK manufacturing

The Government will be investing £147m in the Manufacturing Made Smarter challenge to transform UK manufacturing capabilities through the development and adoption of Industrial Digital Technologies (IDTs).

This investment will raise productivity by 30 per cent, accelerate the drive to Net Zero emissions, create thousands of highly skilled jobs and allow the UK to shape the future of manufacturing.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through Innovate UK, the government’s innovation agency, has already awarded the challenge its first investment package of £20 million to 14 innovative projects in Round 1, comprising over 70 consortia partners in a competition to transform the productivity and agility of UK manufacturing.

Winning projects include:

•             Digitisation of Aluminium welding – Transforming UK bicycle frame-building

Frog Bikes is British SME leading a project innovating the design of children’s bikes. Using the latest digital technologies and manufacturing techniques (for example virtual design and testing, and automated, robotic techniques to join bicycle components together), they will create a lighter, better performing bike. The system streamlines production, reduces cost, and, by allowing suppliers to use recycled materials, creates less waste. The project will bring these manufacturing techniques to the UK, securing control of the company’s supply chain and helping to reduce their carbon footprint.

•             The Digital Sandwich – Digitised Food Supply Chain

Raynor Foods Ltd, an award-winning UK sandwich supplier, is leading a project to create the ‘Digital Sandwich’. This is the world’s first national and ‘open’ software platform: a major piece of software that smaller programmes can operate within. Food and drinks businesses can connect online using these programmes to share valuable data - increasing productivity, improving cashflow, boosting food quality and reducing waste within the supply chain. This includes SMEs, who don’t usually have access to this kind of technology. This platform is to have eventual applications for sectors such as pharmaceutical, aerospace and automotive.

•             Smart Connected Shop Floor – real-time data integration with multi-sector applicability

GKN Aerospace is heading up a cross-sector team involving organisations from the Aerospace, Automotive, and Pharmaceutical industries to trial a combination of digital technologies in live manufacturing environments. These include Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning technologies, intelligent robots, Augmented Reality, and ‘smart’ devices that can exchange information between old and modern computer systems to enable a greater understanding of the data. This project will create a more seamless flow of real-time information, enabling cost-effective manufacturing decisions across the supply chain.

The £20m funding is enhanced by industrial investments worth £30m giving a total value of £50m invested in sectors such as aerospace, automotive, chemicals, digital equipment, FMCG and food and beverage. The projects include IDT concepts such as digital twin, additive manufacturing, and Industrial Internet of Things with technologies spanning four key themes: smart connected factories, connected supply chains, flexible manufacturing operations, and design make and test.

The Manufacturing Made Smarter challenge programme, the Innovation led for the national Made Smarter movement, will create a connected ecosystem harnessing the power of the UK's leading companies large and small, large technology developers and new start-ups and spinouts, and our world-leading research institutions, increasing the number of collaborations up the value chain.  

Chris Courtney, challenge director, ISCF Manufacturing Made Smarter at UKRI, said:

“Digital technologies have the power to radically transform how we manufacture and deliver the products and services of today and the future and I am delighted that we have managed to secure the funding for this vital programme. Our ambition is to support the UK to become a leader in the manufacturing industry and the development of the next generation of technology solutions that will shape how the world works.

“The current COVID challenges all sectors are facing only underline the vital importance of manufacturing in the UK across all sectors. There are enormous opportunities to innovate in this area, we have world leading industries, a powerful scientific and research community, a vibrant technology sector and I’m excited to see how this powerful coalition transforms the future of manufacturing.”

Hamid Mughal, Manufacturing Made Smarter Industrial Advisory Group chair said:

“We have tremendous Manufacturing capability in the UK and recent events have reinforced the importance of strengthening this sector for national resilience and economic growth. Rapid advances in Digital and disruptive Manufacturing technologies provide us with the perfect opportunity to shape this outcome. By harnessing the potential of this technology, we will be able to make a transformational improvement in productivity, sustainability and global competitiveness and create new products and services that forge modern digital enterprises. This programme is a key step forward as it will help UK Manufacturing companies to jointly address this challenge and develop cost-effective digital solutions for deployment in our Manufacturing Sector.” 


Round 2 of challenge competitions are now open - Manufacturing Made Smarter: Digital Supply Chain. Funding of £20m will support innovative feasibility studies and industrial research projects. SME’s can apply for up to 70 per cent funding towards project costs. Applications close 07 October.

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