UK data hub to boost manufacturing

Article by Amanda Jasi

ULSTER University, UK is leading a new £50m (US$62.9m) data innovation hub and testbed expected to help UK manufacturers boost productivity and competitiveness.

The Smart Manufacturing Data Hub (SMDH) will support small and medium sized manufacturers to capture and better user their data, which is expected to help increase productivity. It will also offer support to develop, test, and adopt the latest data-driven technologies. It will help businesses in sectors from food and drink to aerospace, and more.

SMDH will host an online Manufacturing Data Exchange Platform that will allow companies to submit manufacturing data and, in return, receive recommendations aimed at improving products and processes. A dedicated £5m fund will offer grants to enable companies to make further improvements in areas critically important to their businesses.

Virtual manufacturing testbeds will allow companies to create digital twins to simulate implementation of digital technology in their processes. They will use data from manufacturers that have already adopted the technologies to encourage investment.

Hub support staff will also provide manufacturers with expert analysis of emissions and energy data, to help target reductions in waste and energy use, and improve sustainability.

The hub is expected to benefit nearly 10,000 manufacturers and support 13,000 jobs, helping to boost economic growth.

Manufacturers in Northern Ireland will be the first to gain access to the hub in the coming months, before it goes live across the UK. It will be supported across the country by 12 delivery partners including the University of Cambridge’s Institute for Manufacturing, Industry Wales, and Scottish Engineering.

Lee Rowley, UK Minister for Industry, said: “As we embrace the digital manufacturing revolution, it is vital manufacturers across the UK can capitalise on the productivity and growth gains that come with adopting the latest data-led digital technologies.

“The Smart Manufacturing Data Hub, backed by £20m of Government funds, will support companies to implement cutting edge production and process techniques themselves, helping bring the next generation of products to our shelves in a more efficient and sustainable way.”

The Government’s £20m backing is through the Made Smarter Innovation Challenge, a collaboration with industry designed to support development and integration of new and existing industrial digital technologies, including artificial intelligence and virtual reality. The remaining £30m was provided through business co-investment.

The challenge aims to deliver resilient, flexible, and more productive and environmentally sustainable UK manufacturing. It is also expected to develop new technologies that can be exploited commercially across manufacturing industry worldwide.

Article by Amanda Jasi

Staff reporter, The Chemical Engineer

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