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Innovation hubs will help manufacturers to go digital

16 November, 2020

The High Value Manufacturing Catapult and the Made Smarter movement are setting up a network of innovation hubs that will help UK manufacturers to cut the risks of implementing new digital manufacturing systems in their businesses. The pilot scheme will allow them to test projects and early-stage technologies in a safe, industry-like environment with expert support.

The Made Smarter Smart Factory Innovation Hubs, being delivered by the HVM Catapult, will consist of 16 physical and virtual hubs, giving businesses from many sectors an opportunity to see how they can tackle their business problems using industrial digital technologies.

Each hub will offer:
• a sandpit environment for businesses to innovate, develop and de-risk rapidly configurable projects and industrial digital technologies, before they deploy them in their own facilities;
• a technology testbed where manufacturing technology suppliers can test, develop and showcase their offerings on industry use cases. The plug-and-play spaces will use the HVM Catapult’s equipment and facilities, and allow suppliers to test and iterate products; and
demonstrators where businesses can experience new integrated technologies. The hubs will showcase real industry use-cases and facilitate learning in an expert environment.

There will be no cost to manufacturers that use the hubs, which are being funded by UK Research and Innovation through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

Dick Elsy, CEO of the HVM Catapult, says that the hubs “present an exciting opportunity to apply the HVM Catapult’s deep industry knowledge and expertise to projects which require increased speed and agility. We are uniquely positioned to offer a sandpit environment for quick-fire feasibility projects for manufacturers and a testbed for manufacturing technology providers to develop, demonstrate and test new applications.

“Working together with Made Smarter and businesses of all sizes, we look forward to stimulating growth through better use of digital technologies in manufacturing,” he adds.

HVM Catapult CEO Dick Elsy: stimulating growth through better use of digital technologies

The 16 hubs will include sites dedicated to:
• automated robotic manufacturing assembly
• the connected factory;
• cybersecurity for manufacturing;
• digital automation and logistics;
• legacy systems;
• digitally supported manual operations; as well as
• two focussing on factory-in-a-box concepts.

Juergen Maier, co-chair of the Made Smarter movement, says that the hubs “will give smaller companies access to world-class expert support to turbo-charge new digital innovation and projects. This will deliver that much-needed boost to both individual businesses and the economy as a whole, as companies push forward to create the new ‘must-have’ technologies of the future in order to compete in the global marketplace.”

“As businesses fight their way through this second lockdown,” he adds, “speeding up the uptake and development of new ground-breaking digital technologies has never been more important.”

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