Eleven manufacturing tech projects get £3.7m in UKRI funding

Eleven manufacturing technology projects have been awarded £3.7 million in funding through UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Made Smart Innovation (MSI) Challenge.

The MSI Challenge helps to take the risk out of innovation for UK-based manufacturers by supporting collaborations for creating new, innovative solutions with the help of industry experts.

The winning projects of the challenge, each of whom have secured between £107,000 and £535,000 in funding, span areas such as process control, machine vision, and deployment in end gripper technology. Each project will last from nine to 15 months, and tested across sectors including electronics, food and drink, and fast-moving consumer goods.

One of the successful projects is “BROM-BOT,” aiming to optimise bicycle production at the London manufacturing site of Brompton, the folding bicycle manufacturer, through the development of industrial-grade robotic and automation solutions.

The project involves creating a “robot sandpit” or “playground,” leveraging East Kent College’s Group’s robotic learning factory in Canterbury to test integration across key operations within the factory.

Graham Razey, chief executive of East Kent College’s Group, said: “It is absolutely fantastic news that we’ve been selected as the education partner for this exciting project. It will offer up a range of fantastic opportunities for our students and staff in engineering and computing to engage in innovating through research and development.

“We will also work to align our curriculum to the project’s developments, ensuring that what our students learn meets the future needs of employers, enabling organisations to fully realise the business benefits that moving to Industry 4.0 can bring.”

Phill Elston, the operations director at Brompton, said: “This new funding will enable the team to drive forward an array of exciting technology projects, ultimately meaning that Brompton can continue to be a leader of innovation in the urban mobility industry.”

Another winning project, Flamingo Flowers’ Project FLORABOT, looks to develop digital and automation technologies for flower packaging factories, as well as developing flexible automation solutions for bouquet-making operations.

Martyn Shannon, the operations general manager at Flamingo Flowers, commented: “This competition is a real opportunity to help us advance our automation and robotics development programme.

“Our partnership with the Manufacturing Technology Centre, part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, allows us to utilise key expertise in automation, robotics and vision systems and keep Flamingo Flowers at the forefront of innovation.”


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Speaking on the funding, Chris Needham, innovation lead in the MSI Challenge, remarked: “The successful 11 projects have the potential to improve process automation and efficiency in environments where those kinds of gains are hard to come by.

“The importance of these kinds of innovations for the UK economy can’t be overstated. Our funding is designed to support them as they pave the way to a smarter and more resilient manufacturing landscape.”


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