The High Value Manufacturing Catapult and Made Smarter, the UK’s manufacturing digitalisation movement, have announced a new Factory Innovation Hubs pilot to help businesses test quick-fire projects and early-stage technologies.

The Innovation Hubs pilot will come at no cost for participating companies. The funding was awarded by UK Research and Innovation through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

The Made Smarter offering, delivered by the Solihull-based HVM Catapult which helps bridge the gap between business and academia, will consist of sixteen physical and virtual hubs, giving businesses from sectors like food and drink, pharmaceuticals or aerospace an opportunity to see how they can address live business problems using industrial digital technologies.

And many of the hubs will be located across the region.

The Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) at Coventry will host the Additive Manufacturing Hub, Digital Propulsion, Reconfigurable Assembly, Legacy connectivity, “Factory in a Box” and Automated Robotic Manufacturing Assembly

WMG (Warwick Manufacturing Group at the University of Warwick), will host the Digital Automation & Logistics hub, Digitally supported manual operations

The National Composites Centre at Emerson’s Green, Bristol will host the Composite Forming & in-process Verification Hub.

Dick Elsy, CEO of the HVM Catapult, said: “We’re pleased to work with UK businesses looking to harness innovative digital technologies to transform their performance and competitiveness. The Smart Factory Innovation 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.”

Juergen Maier, Co-Chair Made Smarter said: “As businesses fight their way through this second lockdown, speeding up the uptake and development of new ground-breaking digital technologies has never been more important. These new Made Smarter Smart Factory Innovation 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.”

Each Smart Factory Innovation Hub will offer:

  1. Sandpit environment for businesses to innovate, develop and de-risk rapidly configurable projects and industrial digital technologies before they are deployed in their own facilities
  2. Technology testbed a ‘plug and play’ space for manufacturing technology providers to test, develop and showcase their solutions on industry use cases. The technology testbed will use the HVM Catapult’s world-class equipment and facilities, and allow providers to test and iterate minimal viable products
  3. Demonstrators of integrated technology solutions where businesses can experience new technologies. The Innovation Hubs will showcase real industry use-cases and facilitate live-learning in an expert environment