Nine UK universities are to establish five new digital manufacturing research centres following £25 million of government investment to help improve the productivity of British businesses.
Bath, Nottingham, Loughborough, Strathclyde and Sheffield will lead the centres, with support from Bristol, Cambridge, Cranfield and Warwick universities.
The government is spending a total of £53 million – of which it has earmarked £25 million for the five new research centres – through the national Made Smarter programme, managed by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). The joint government-private sector initiative seeks to encourage British businesses to adopt the “latest data-driven innovations”, like AI, blockchain and advanced robotics.
The industry-sponsored centres will focus on finding efficiencies in and improving the resilience of supply chains. One, for example, seeks to improve the operations of clinical trials and the availability of pharmaceuticals. Another looks to help develop more adaptability production lines, or a so-called Morphing Factory, capable of rapidly shifting manufacturing new products. Other centres will pursue sustainable, net-zero production methods and digital knowledge in manufacturing.
The five digital manufacturing research centres:
- Digital Medicines Manufacturing Research Centre, based at Strathclyde, Cambridge and Loughborough Universities.
- Research Centre for Smart, Collaborative Industrial Robotics, based at Loughborough, Strathclyde, Cranfield, Bristol and Warwick Universities.
- Research Centre for Connected Factories, based at Nottingham, Cambridge and Sheffield Universities.
- Materials Made Smarter Research Centre, based at Strathclyde, Cambridge and Loughborough Universities.
- People-Led Digitalisation Research Centre, based at Bath, Nottingham and Loughborough Universities.
Minister for investment Lord Grimstone, said: “Improving productivity and becoming more competitive is not just about sophisticated manufacturing, but also about smarter manufacturing, and we want to make it as easy as possible for companies large and small to make the changes needed to take full advantage of the innovative technology being developed.”
“It is vital we form a vibrant connected ecosystem from applied research to industrialisation in order to fully capitalise on that potential,” said Chris Courtney, director of Made Smarter Innovation Challenge at UKRI.
He added: “We have seen tremendous demand for this area across all sectors, company sizes and locations, and real evidence of the vibrant community of innovators in the areas of digital manufacturing and supply chains. I’m excited to see how this powerful coalition transforms the future of manufacturing and its supply chains.”