New research suggests that adapting to COVID-19 has encouraged UK manufacturers to accelerate their implementation of advanced technologies such as AI and the Internet of Things.
The research, commissioned by the Digital Catapult and Made Smarter Technology Accelerator, found that 77 per cent of manufacturers believe the pandemic has made their business more open to change and innovation.
Nearly three-quarters of those surveyed (71 per cent) believe that AI, the Internet of Things, lockdown and other advanced technologies could improve their manufacturing operations. Six in ten said their design and engineering processes could benefit and half said adoption could improve their procurement and supply chain performance.
Despite this growing interest, a third of senior manufacturers said they thought the UK was falling behind its international competitors when it comes to adopting advanced technologies. Limited budgets, cybersecurity concerns and a lack of in-house skills were identified as the most common barriers to adoption.
To help manufacturers overcome these hurdles, the Made Smarter Technology Accelerator - part of the wider Made Smarter initiative - is helping established manufacturers to join forces with tech start-ups to develop prototypes and products that could drive productivity, digitalisation and innovation in the industry.
Through the programme, industry partners set challenges for tech start-ups to respond to. For example, BAE Systems has set a challenge to develop scalable AI for visual inspection, while Sainsbury’s is looking for ways to increase shelf life and sell-through of products while reducing waste.
Successful tech start-up applicants will receive up to £20,000 funding to help develop prototypes that address these challenges, with the industry partners benefitting from direct access to the outputs.
Juergen Maier, Chair of Digital Catapult and Co-chair of Made Smarter, said:
“By creating bonds between technology start-ups and scale-ups and the manufacturing industry we have the opportunity for the UK to lead the way in the fourth industrial revolution – as advanced technology radically alters, and improves, the way we approach manufacturing.”