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BEIS Allocates Digital Research Funding

The business department, BEIS, has announced £25 million in funding for academic research aimed at helping supply chains to become more productive.  It is under the Made Smarter programme and is part of £53 million allocated from a £143 million Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund announced in May.

Five “digital manufacturing research centres” are to get the funding:

  • Research Centre for Smart, Collaborative Industrial Robotics, based in Loughborough, Strathclyde, Cranfield, Bristol and Warwick Universities, will look to eliminate barriers to adopting robotics and accelerate their widespread use in manufacturing
  • Digital Medicines Manufacturing Research Centre, based in Strathclyde, Cambridge and Loughborough Universities, aims to create digital supply chains that enable medicines to be supplied on demand and enable clinical trials to operate more flexibly
  • Research Centre for Connected Factories, based in Nottingham, Cambridge and Sheffield Universities, will work to create a ‘Morphing Factory’ where production can be easily repurposed in response to changing market demand, for example, during the pandemic when drinks manufacturers have transformed their production lines to make hand sanitizer
  • Materials Made Smarter Research Centre, based in Strathclyde, Cambridge and Loughborough Universities, will work on overcoming technological challenges preventing adoption of new materials and manufacturing processes needed to become more sustainable and help achieve net zero emissions
  • People-Led Digitalisation, based in Bath, Nottingham and Loughborough Universities, aims to achieving the highest level of manufacturing productivity by increasing the digital knowledge and awareness of manufacturers

The announcement comes from Lord Grimstone, who is the BEIS minister responsible for advanced manufacturing, automotive, defence, infrastructure, materials (including steel) and professional and business services.  Unusually, he is also a minister at the Department for International Trade, where he leads on inward investment. 

BEIS says that “adoption of the latest data-driven innovations, such as use of AI and blockchain in supply chains, or advanced robotics and smart machines in manufacturing, will help manufacturers to increase productivity, become more sustainable and build back better from the pandemic”.

Also, £18 million of funding for firms has been awarded through the Digital Supply Chain Competition to 37 projects to “support their development of innovations designed to help manufacturing supply chains become more productive and sustainable”.  Winning projects that made public in the announcement are:

  • Automotive company Jaguar Land Rover’s project, investigating the use of blockchain technology when tanning leather to improve traceability and reducing environmental, social and economic risks
  • Durham-based Pragmatic Printing SORT-IT project, aiming to use digital technology and intelligent automation to track and sort packaging waste for recycling
  • Technology provider Circulor, which has developed a blockchain platform enabling businesses to monitor and track the origin and quality of raw materials in their supply chain, including dynamic tracking of CO2 emissions
  • Armagh-based Food for Thought’s project, which is planning to improve the use of robotics and technology to increase food traceability and better use of cold storage infrastructure
  • Perpetual Labs’ project, which aims to create a digital model-driven approach to manufacturing which makes information accessible in one place in one standard language for all involved in the supply chain, allowing for improved work methods

£10 million in funding has been awarded today to the new Made Smarter Innovation Digital Supply Chain Innovation Hub to develop breakthrough solutions that create supply chains that are fully connected, resilient and sustainable. 

These grants help firms to develop their intellectual property with government support.  The next round of collaborative research and development, focusing on Sustainable Smart Factories, will be open to applications in late 2021. For updates on opportunities, sign up to Made Smarter Innovation Network newsletter on the Made Smarter website to keep up to date on upcoming funding opportunities.

Links: release: 

From May:

Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund: for research and innovation - GOV.UK (

Manufacturing made smarter challenge – UKRI

Made Smarter:

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Loughborough student/business scheme

Loughborough University has invited organisation to apply for participation in its  Collaborate scheme, which enables “students across all degrees to work closely with external organisations to solve real-life challenges”.  It is open to organisations of all sizes and from all industries, which will “meet future talent, support innovation and inspire further research”. This year, over 70 students went on to collaborate further with companies with the follow-on module, the Collaborative Dissertation. 

Link: Calling all collaborative innovators | Loughborough University (