Digital Aviation Research Technology Centre (DARTeC) at Cranfield University

Five brand new digital manufacturing research centres and projects to help supply chains become more productive are among recipients of £53 million of new government funding to drive the development of the latest digital manufacturing technologies.

Nearly £25 million will be invested in five new industry-sponsored research centres set up around the UK, including at Cranfield University, University of Strathclyde and University of Nottingham, to accelerate the development of cutting-edge digital solutions that can transform manufacturing businesses across many sectors.

They will help to make supply chains faster, more efficient, and more resilient.

The Research Centre for Smart, Collaborative Industrial Robotics is based in Cranfield, Loughborough, Strathclyde, Bristol and Warwick Universities.

It will look to eliminate barriers to adopting robotics and accelerate their widespread use in manufacturing.

Professor Phil Webb, Cranfield’s Airbus Chair in Aero-Structures Design, said:

“Close interaction between humans and robots is likely to radically change the workplace in the future.

“This is a really exciting opportunity for Cranfield to build on its existing significant knowledge and expertise to truly understand the potential impact from the human perspective.”

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

The four other centres are:

  • 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 sanitiser
  • 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

Speaking when the funding was announced, 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.”