News has emerged that British businesses with practical ideas on how to boost the UK's manufacturing capabilities (including the use of robotics, AI and AR), could benefit from £300m of joint government and industry funding. It is being made available via the Manufacturing Made Smarter Challenge, in which the government will invest £147m (enhanced further by additional funding from industry) to support businesses which are implementing new technology to boost manufacturing productivity. The aim is to create thousands of new jobs.
The first £50m of the funding is apparently being allocated to fourteen manufacturing projects, involving approximately 30 small or medium businesses, 29 larger enterprises and nine universities, with the rest of the funds due to be released over the next 5 years. A company behind one winning project, the Digital Designer Robot, says that it aims to offer machine-to-person digital assistance. When a business needs a bespoke product, it will be able to use a digital robot to help design it and upload the design onto a supplier's website. Another is beneficiary is using robots to develop lightweight aluminium cycles for children. Other projects already benefiting from the scheme include West Midlands-based WeldZero.
Business secretary Alok Sharma says: "Increasing productivity is vital for any business and having the right new technologies in place can help manufacturers make better products to compete and thrive. By helping manufacturers to reduce costs, cut waste, and slash the time it takes to develop their products, this multimillion-pound uplift will help fire up the cylinders of productivity as we build back better from the pandemic".
Chris Courtney, a director of Made Smarter at UK Research and Innovation, says: "The current COVID challenges which all sectors are facing only underline the vital importance of manufacturing in the UK. 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".