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The government has launched a £30 million competition for new technologies to boost productivity and agility in the UK’s manufacturing sector.

The aim is to support the development of a broad range of industrial technologies, including sensors, the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), analytics, and virtual reality (VR).

The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) announced the competition today, in partnership with UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). It forms part of the Manufacturing Made Smarter Challenge, which is funded through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

The Challenge aims to provide a collaborative, cross-sector approach to technology research, while encouraging small, medium, and large-scale companies throughout the UK supply chain to collaborate and engage directly with the manufacturing sector.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said, “We want to support companies of all sizes who want to develop new digital capabilities, and will support projects that will help ensure the UK remains at the forefront of technological developments.”
Under the competition’s rules, projects must be business led and collaborative, with all consortia involving at least one SME.

“We are committed to making sure manufacturers are best placed to take advantage of the opportunities being created by industrial digitalisation and help our leading advanced manufacturing sector continue to grow,” added Clark.

UKRI chief Professor Sir Mark Walport said, “The Manufacturing Made Smarter Challenge will boost the productivity of UK manufacturing by encouraging the adoption of digital technologies across a wide range of sectors.

“It will ensure the long-term prosperity of UK manufacturing and contribute to an increase in total productivity, making the UK a global leader of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and delivering clean growth.”

Juergen Maier CBE, Siemens UK CEO and Co-Chair of the Made Smarter Commission said, “This investment is an incredibly important step forward, helping our small manufacturers embrace the latest advanced and digital technologies at a very disruptive time for the industry.

“Through this Challenge, there is a real opportunity to boost national productivity and stimulate engineering entrepreneurship which will create the new high-wage, high skilled jobs of the future.”

So-called extreme environments – environments that are hazardous to human beings – typify high-risk industries such as offshore energy, subsea engineering, deep mining, space exploration, and nuclear power/decommissioning. As such, they present a significant economic opportunity for robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), and other connected technologies, such as sensors.