Businesses with creative ideas to boost the UK’s manufacturing capabilities, including using robotics, AI and augmented reality, are set to receive £300m of joint government and industry funding, Business Secretary Alok Sharma confirmed at London Tech Week on Friday.
Through the Manufacturing Made Smarter Challenge, the government will invest £147m, backed by further funding from industry to support businesses implement new tech to boost their manufacturing productivity, helping them reach new customers, create thousands of new highly skilled jobs, slash carbon emissions and reduce prices for consumers.
The first £50m of the funding is being allocated to fourteen cutting-edge manufacturing projects involving around 30 small or medium businesses, 29 larger enterprises and nine universities, with the rest of the funds due over the next five years.
A company behind one winning project the Digital Designer Robot 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 quickly onto a supplier’s website, so the product can then be sampled, prototyped and manufactured by the supplier.
The virtual assistant would also offer expert advice and guidance, by ‘conversing’ with businesses to ask questions, listen to feedback, and provide suggestions. This could reduce the time it takes to manufacture products, as well as cut costs and waste thanks to a more precise design process.
Another is developing super lightweight, aluminium bikes for children using robots, whilst another is pioneering the use of AI to help businesses design new products.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma said, “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 multi-million pound uplift will help fire up the cylinders of productivity as we build back better from the pandemic.”