Digital Catapult to lead £20m charge to fortify global manufacturing supply chains

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A new £20m UK-wide initiative has been launched today to tackle challenges faced by the UK’s manufacturing supply chains in the wake of the pandemic.

A £10m award from UK Research and Innovation and the Made Smarter Innovation programme will be combined with £10m investment from the private sector to accelerate commercial integration of advanced and emerging digital technologies across manufacturing supply chains in the aerospace & defence, pharmaceutical, fabrication and logistics sectors, over the next four years.

Made Smarter’s Digital Supply Chain Innovation Hub is led by Digital Catapult, the UK authority on advanced digital technology, in collaboration with the High Value Manufacturing (HVM) Catapult, National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and TWI Ltd.

The programme partners will work with technology providers, research organisations and academics up and down the country to develop a globally competitive, resilient and sustainable digitally enabled ecosystem of UK companies, uniquely positioned to solve the myriad challenges faced by today’s manufacturing supply chains.

The project aims to help manufacturers integrate advanced digital technologies, leading to improved data sharing and more informed analysis, meaning manufacturers are able to spot logjams in supply chains, reduce waste and boost efficiencies.

In partnership with UK manufacturers and universities, the Made Smarter Digital Supply Chain Innovation Hub will deliver a number of flagship projects which will boost existing expertise, create regional centres of excellence and ongoing efforts across the sector to accelerate commercial integration of industrial digital technologies:

  • Last Mile Living Lab: Led by Digital Catapult, to explore and develop delivery resource management infrastructure to tackle the challenging and costly “last mile” of delivery.
  • Digital Enabled Manufacturing Sourcing: Led by TWI, to connect manufacturing capacity with emerging manufacturing needs to increase capacity utilisation and boost production flexibility.
  • Differentiator: Led by the HVM Catapult and supported by NPL, to develop new supply-chain models to support clinical trials and help get the right medicine to the right patient at the right dose, on demand.
  • Connected Tempest: Led by the HVM Catapult and supported by NPL, to create a collaborative and ultra-secure digital test bed that maximises innovation across multiple tiers of supply-chain networks in the Tempest defence programme.

The programme will also develop a virtual and inclusive hub that coordinates the integration and adoption of industrial digital technologies by establishing a virtual digital supply chain hub, and exemplar projects addressing key challenges within the supply chain through the development, standardisation and sharing of knowledge.

Jeremy Silver, CEO of Digital Catapult, said: “The opportunity for innovation in manufacturing supply chains is incredibly broad. The Made Smarter Digital Supply Chain Innovation Hub will demonstrate how the tangible impact of emerging digital technologies can affect the nation’s supply chains, mitigating against the kinds of component shortages experienced during the pandemic, boosting efficiency, reducing waste, and supporting some of the UK’s most important industrial sectors through fostering a culture of innovation.

“Digital Catapult brings to the Hub its significant experience in driving ambitious innovation programmes and creating opportunities for businesses right across manufacturing sectors, as well as extensive experience in building major testbed facilities that provide real hands-on technology experience for businesses. Through this groundbreaking, UK-wide collaboration with leading organisations in industry, we hope to provide a lasting boost for the UK's world-leading manufacturing industries as they accelerate back to growth.”

Katherine Bennett CBE, CEO of the HWM Catapult said: “Digital technologies have the power to transform production, reduce waste and help tackle carbon emissions. The Made Smarter Digital Supply Chain Innovation Hub will show how these technologies can also strengthen supply chains, improving the resilience of consumers and businesses in every sector. The High Value Manufacturing Catapult will bring its industrial insight and deep experience of working with manufacturers of every size to the projects and challenges the hub will address boosting the performance of companies right around the nation.”