The University of Strathclyde is a partner in two of five new digital manufacturing research centres receiving nearly £25 million of UK government funding.

The centres are being established to help supply chains become more productive and to drive the development of the latest digital manufacturing technologies.

The funding has been awarded though the national Made Smarter programme, a collaboration between UK government and industry designed to support the development and increase use of these emerging technologies.

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.

The centres will help to make supply chains faster, more efficient, and more resilient and each will focus on a different area of manufacturing. They include:

  • Research Centre for Smart, Collaborative Industrial Robotics, based at Strathclyde, Loughborough, the Universities of Bristol and Warwick and Cranfield University: will look to eliminate barriers to adopting robotics and accelerate their widespread use in manufacturing.
  • Digital Medicines Manufacturing Research Centre, led by Strathclyde with the Universities of Cambridge and Loughborough: aims to create digital supply chains that enable medicines to be developed, manufactured and supplied on demand and enable clinical trials to operate more flexibly and efficiently.

The new centres complement key strategic research centres at the University: Strathclyde is the anchor university in the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland, which is set to transform skills, productivity and innovation, including in robotics, in Scotland by strengthening links between industry, academia and the public sector.

Strathclyde also leads the Centre for Continuous Manufacturing and Advanced Crystallisation, a leading world-class medicines manufacturing research centre working collaboratively with industry to deliver a portfolio of research, training, facilities and translation to industry programmes. The new Digital Medicines Manufacturing Research Centre award builds on CMAC’s extensive digital programme established through aligned projects that include an EPSRC Future Manufacturing Research Hub and EPSRC Articular (Artificial Intelligence in Pharmaceutical Development).

In addition, the University is also a strategic partner in the Medicines Manufacturing Innovation Centre, which is revolutionising the way medicines are manufactured. The Centre offers pharma companies, from start-ups through to multinational organisations, a service to develop and adopt novel manufacturing techniques to adapt into their own manufacturing processes.

Professor Tim Bedford, Associate Principal Research & Innovation at Strathclyde, said: “Manufacturing is a key element in the UK’s economic recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic. With Government support, industry and academia alike have vast knowledge, experience and capability to contribute to the sector’s performance.

“The benefits of the Made Smarter programme will manifest themselves in much-needed jobs, in competitive advantage for the manufacturing sector, in robust, reliable supply chains and in the acceleration of the delivery of high-quality products to the market. To achieve this, the most innovative technology and techniques are required. 

“Advanced Manufacturing and Materials is among Strathclyde’s Strategic Themes and a culture of innovation permeates everything we do. Our work in this area addresses the creation of products and production processes through to the development and application of leading-edge technical and organisational knowledge and expertise.

“All of this means we are ideally placed to play, along with our industrial partners, a central role in developing this technology and expertise, so that large companies, SMEs and start-ups can all have access to the most advanced resources.”

UK Minister for Investment Lord Grimstone, said: “As we embark on a digital manufacturing revolution, we want to make sure our manufacturers are bolstered by the latest cutting-edge technology as we all work to build back better from the pandemic.

“Improving productivity and becoming more competitive is not just about sophisticated manufacturing, but also about smarter manufacturing, and we want to make it as easy as possible for companies large and small to make the changes needed to take full advantage of the innovative technology being developed.”

Made Smarter Innovation Challenge Director UKRI, Chris Courtney, said: “Digital technologies have the power to radically transform how we manufacture and deliver the products and services of today and the future delivering a productive, sustainable and flexible manufacturing sector and enhancing the future of work within it. There are enormous opportunities to innovate in this area, we have world leading industries, a powerful scientific and research community and a vibrant technology sector. It is vital we form a vibrant connected ecosystem from applied research to industrialisation in order to fully capitalise on that potential.

“We have seen tremendous demand for this area across all sectors, company sizes and locations, and real evidence of the vibrant community of innovators in the areas of digital manufacturing and supply chains. I’m excited to see how this powerful coalition transforms the future of manufacturing and its supply chains.”