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Projects receive funding to help digitise manufacturing

Following recommendations from the Industrial Digitisation review, the EPSRC is funding AI and process automation projects

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has awarded £11.4m to seven projects which aim to create novel digital tools, techniques and processes that will support the translation of digital capabilities into the manufacturing sector.

Industrial digitisation could be worth as much as £455bn to UK manufacturing over the next decade, according to the Made Smarter review.

The industry and government group published its Industrial Digitisation review last year. The review stated that industrial digitisation represents a massive opportunity for UK industry – and the wider economy.

But, the report warned: “The technologies that underpin it are also highly disruptive, requiring business to be innovative, agile and adaptable. Industry and government will need to work in partnership to provide the infrastructure and ecosystems that can enable manufacturing businesses and their supply chains to maximise these opportunities and be competitive.”

EPSRC’s executive chair, Professor Philip Nelson, said: “The adoption of advanced ICT techniques in manufacturing provides an enormous opportunity to improve growth and productivity in the UK.

“The effective implementation of these new technologies requires a multidisciplinary approach and these projects will see academic researchers working with a large number of industrial partners to fully harness their potential, which could generate impact across many sectors.”

The projects aim to tackle challenges like the improvement of processes in the chemical and pharmaceutical industries; developing methods to capture and predict impact from the introduction of digital technologies for improved manufacturing performance; the integration of revision control in digital-physical models; the improvement of modelling for analysis of dynamic loading in engineering and manufacturing; and the development of low-cost digital tools for SMEs.

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The Industrial Digitisation review is among a number of Government-backed initiatives to boost the UK’s technology and digital economy.

In Mach 2018, the Government unveiled its digital strategy, with a pledge to grow the UK’s technology skills and make the country the best place for digital businesses to invest and grow, and in April, the department for culture, media and sport (DCMS) announced that 50 businesses and organisations had contributed to the development of a £1bn AI sector deal to put the UK at the forefront of the AI industry.

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