Manufacturing & Supply Chain

£14 million funding for sustainable smart factory projects

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£14 million funding for sustainable smart factory projects

£14 million funding for sustainable smart factory projects
October 18
09:46 2022
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£14 million has been awarded to projects that harness digital technology to drive energy efficiency, productivity and growth across key manufacturing industries.

UK Research and Innovation has announced the winners of almost £14 million in combined backing from its latest funding opportunity under the Made Smarter innovation challenge, the Sustainable Smart Factory competition.

The collaborative research and development competition sought to identify and support digital innovations to improve the sustainability of manufacturing processes, resulting in either reduced material or energy consumption.

Projects applying for funding were required to show an innovative development and application of data or digital technology that could help:

  • optimise material usage
  • reduce, reuse or separate waste materials
  • lower energy consumption to increase sustainability throughout an area of production.

The successful projects

In total, 12 projects were successful in their applications, which involved:

  • securing between £1 million and £8 million in funding each
  • offering solutions for a wide range of manufactured goods and industrial processes across a number of sectors spanning:
    • food
    • aerospace
    • automotive
    • plastics
    • electronics
    • various engineering disciplines.

The successful projects range from 2 to 10 participant organisations each, making a combined 55 organisations taking part overall.

These included participants from:

  • Scotland
  • the South West
  • Northern Ireland
  • East Anglia.

They were made up of both small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and large manufacturers, technology developers, universities and research and technology organisations.

Cleaner manufacturing economy

It is estimated the projects could create 1,000 jobs in the 3 years after their completion, while reducing manufacturing carbon dioxide emissions by 300,000 tonnes a year. This is the equivalent to taking nearly 65,000 cars off our roads.

The winners include:

  • Photocentric’s solution for digitally manufactured, 3D-printed parts that can be created entirely autonomously and will challenge existing injection moulding techniques from overseas
  • Deep.Meta project, which will use novel artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to help reduce energy use and carbon emissions in the steel industry
  • PragmatIC Semiconductor’s project, which is looking to tackle the pollution within the electronics industry by building a new high-volume manufacturing facility that will help substantially reduce annual carbon emissions.

Projects will run for up to 2 years and are expected to open the door to significant carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) savings and a cleaner manufacturing economy. Find out more about the made smarter innovation challenge.

Maximising potential using technology

Industry Minister Jackie Doyle-Price said: “Creating and adopting the latest in digital technology solutions will be key to the continued success of our manufacturing sector. It is now critical that companies in industries as varied as baking to advanced robotics are maximising their potential using technology such as AI and virtual reality.

“The projects awarded funding will cut energy consumption and boost growth for businesses in regions right across the UK, while helping our world leading manufacturers keep pace with ever growing global competition.”

Delivering successful outcomes

Chris Needham, Innovation Lead in the Made Smarter innovation challenge, said: “Effective digital technologies can have a substantial impact on the manufacturing sector, bringing outdated, inefficient and unproductive products and processes up the standards needed for a net zero industry of the future.

“It’s clear from the wide range of applications we received just how far waste and energy issues extend across different industries. The successful applicants clearly demonstrated real innovation and showed just how the right use of data and technology can make a significant difference to businesses. We now look forward to working alongside them to deliver successful outcomes.”

There are still further opportunities to get involved with the Made Smarter innovation challenge. The Made Smarter innovation digital supply chain innovation hub is open for expressions of interest to run supply chain test beds.

The next collaborative research and development funding opportunity will also be launching in January 2023, offering a combined £6 million for industrial readiness robotics innovation projects within manufacturing operations.

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