Manufacturers say COVID-19 has made them more open to innovation

Written by: Paul Fanning | Published:

New research commissioned by Digital Catapult and the Made Smarter Technology Accelerator ​​reveals that COVID-19 could prove to be a turning point when it comes to UK manufacturers implementing advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence, blockchain, the internet of things or 5G, with 77% saying that the pandemic has made their business more open to change and innovation.

Yet, despite recognising such technologies would benefit their manufacturing operations (71%), design and engineering processes (60%) and procurement and supply chain performance (49%), a third (32%) of senior manufacturers have admitted that the UK is behind its international competitors when it comes to adopting advanced technologies.

The research revealed that the key barriers for accessing these benefits include lack of budget – particularly pertinent in light of the economic impacts of the pandemic – with 40% of respondents saying it is stopping them investing. This was closely followed by cyber security concerns (32%) and a lack of skills within the company (30%).

To help manufacturers overcome these hurdles, as well as fast-forward and shape the UK’s technology innovation directly into industry, the Made Smarter Technology Accelerator empowers established manufacturers to join forces with innovative technology startups and scaleups to develop technology prototypes and minimum viable products in order to drive productivity, digitalisation and innovation and ultimately push forward the fourth industrial revolution for the UK manufacturing sector.

Today Digital Catapult has announced the seven industry partners – including BAE Systems, Babcock International Group and Sainsbury’s – which have partnered with the match-funded Made Smarter Technology Accelerator programme and have set 14 challenges for the technology companies to respond to. The challenges range from increasing shelf life and sell through of products while reducing waste (Sainsbury’s) to scalable artificial intelligence for visual inspection (BAE Systems).

The seven partners joining the programme are Babcock International Group, BAE Systems, GAF, Northumbrian Water Group (NWG), O’Neills Irish International Sports Company Limited, Safran Landing Systems and Sainsbury’s.

The successful startup and scaleup applicants selected to respond will be provided with up to £20,000 funding each and a platform to grow as they develop prototypes to address these challenges. In return for both match-funded financial and in-kind contributions, partners will gain direct access to the outputs and learnings of the programme as well as have proof of concepts developed for challenges they set.


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