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Eight pioneers chart a sustainable future for UK manufacturing

Digital Catapult, the UK authority on advanced digital technology, has welcomed eight technology pioneers to the Made Smarter Innovation Sustainability Accelerator to improve resource and energy efficiency in UK manufacturing. Working with industry leaders BAE Systems, HS2 and Creagh Concrete, the participating companies will receive support from innovation experts at Digital Catapult to co-develop solutions that will establish a more sustainable industrial future.

Delivered by Digital Catapult, the programme is funded by Made Smarter and Innovate UK, to build on the success of the Made Smarter Technology Accelerator, which paired UK manufacturers with technology companies to adapt and improve their approach to industrial innovation. The new programme will foster deeper strategic collaborations between tech innovators and industrial pioneers to advance sustainable manufacturing initiatives, including the application of digital twin technologies.

BAE Systems, which provides some of the world’s most advanced defence, aerospace and security assets, will work with Digica Solutions to develop a digital twin of its Factory of the Future research centre. Digica’s solution will demonstrate how environmental factors affect manufacturing operations, while Quasir will combine physics-based models with data-driven machine learning tools to increase operational efficiency, whilst reducing energy consumption and resource waste.

HS2 is constructing Britain’s new high-speed railway, comprising 140-miles of track, four new, state-of-the art stations, two depots, 32 miles of tunnel, and 179 bridges. Construction is based at over 350 active sites between West Midlands and London, most of which will be converted to green sites in the coming years, with Infinitive Group and Material Index seeking to improve the sustainability of this work by optimising the planned deconstruction process. Both start-ups will develop digital software tools to integrate and analyse deconstruction-related data effectively to support informed decision making about material recapture and reuse, ensuring that when sites are no longer needed, they are sustainably deconstructed.

One of the UK’s largest producers of concrete products, Northern Ireland-based Creagh Concrete, will collaborate with DataFlowIQ, Linearworks, Kinsetsu and Coraledge to gain accurate, comprehensive insight into its production process. Optimising and digitalising the manufacturing process, while improving energy and operational efficiency, will enable Creagh Concrete to maintain its competitive edge and achieve its sustainability goals.

The programme will offer participants support in the form of sustainability masterclasses, technical monitoring, innovation expertise and peer-to-peer support, to grow each company’s capabilities. The programme will play a critical role in advancing industrial sustainability through the adoption of deep technology, and comes as it was announced that the country is halfway to net zero, with emissions cut by 53% between 1990 and 2023.

Participating start-ups and SMEs will each receive £75,000 funding to develop a proof of concept and a further £100,000 will be available for up to four companies to progress to phase two. Phase two will support the successful companies to develop pilot prototypes, culminating in a showcase in early 2025 to pitch their solutions to investors and industry leaders.

“BAE Systems Air Sector has a clear set of net zero drivers we are embedding in our UK manufacturing operations, with researched and applied data science being key to achieving our goals,” Cenk Kafaoglu, Manufacturing Development Engineer, BAE Systems – Air, said. “We have always looked to our strong relationships with the Catapult Network and UK-based SMEs as a way of accelerating early stage technology development ideas. The innovations from these proposals could make a hugely positive impact on the way we do things.”

Justin Cross, Director of Innovation Practice, Digital Catapult added that with UK manufacturing touted as one of the silver bullets to sustainable economic growth, there is growing demand for manufacturers to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability, and prove that this commitment yields significant commercial benefit. “The UK was the eighth largest global manufacturer last year, so we are in a prime position to show the rest of the world that sustainable innovation and smart manufacturing are key to achieving long-term economic prosperity,” he continued. “I’m confident that these innovative solutions will improve energy efficiency and optimise resource use, and I’d like to congratulate the start-ups for joining this pioneering new programme.”

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