£15 million boost for 49 innovative manufacturing and materials projects


UK companies spearheading the latest innovations in manufacturing and materials development are to receive £15 million boost from the latest Innovate UK competition for the sector.

49 winning projects involving 81 companies have been successful in the latest £15 million manufacturing and materials competition. The successful companies had to focus on identified technical or commercial challenges, leading to increased productivity, competitiveness and growth for UK SMEs.

Examples of projects funded include:

Branscan Ltd is using networkable intelligent sensors to detect contaminants in food processing and help provide full traceability of food quality.

Sweet Perspex is using an innovative bioprocess to manufacture the basic materials for acrylic production. This decreases reliance on petrochemical feedstocks and helps meet demand for sustainable, bio-based materials.

UltraWELD is using ultrafast laser welding to join highly dissimilar materials in the manufacturing of complex electro-optic devices and OLED lighting.

Rawwater Engineering is developing an advanced bismuth alloy which can be used to plug oil & gas wells at the end of their lives, addressing the questionable sealing integrity, short lifetime and high cost of the currently-used cement plugs.

Simon Edmonds, Manufacturing and Materials Director at Innovate UK, said: “The quality of the projects funded was excellent, and demonstrates the appetite among manufacturing and materials businesses within the UK to innovate and grow.

“I urge those businesses who might be interested in our funding opportunities in manufacturing and materials to look at our next £15 million competition which is currently open for applications.”

New design innovation awards

Innovate UK has invested up to £2 million in early-stage, human-centred design projects through round 1 of the Design Foundations competition. Funded projects will help businesses identify high-value innovation opportunities and generate ideas for new or improved products, services or business models that align with customer demand.

Businesses were encouraged to work with experienced design professionals and follow an established design process such as the ‘double-diamond’. Projects should begin by exploring human motivations and behaviour before identifying specific problems or opportunities to be addressed. Ideas generated in response to those opportunities should then be quickly tested and refined with a focus on validating the quality of the customer experience, rather than developing the underlying technology.

Examples of projects funded during round 1 include:

Cambridge Animal Technologies are carrying a project exploring the needs of the livestock farming market related to monitoring, managing and taking care of the health of their herd. The project will generate a portfolio of conceptual design solutions from a customer experience perspective, based on the principals of user-centric design and the ‘discover’, ‘define’ and ‘develop’ phases of the double diamond design methodology.

Baxi’s ‘Delivering Warmth’ project will put all of us who need to heat our homes and water at the heart of their design and innovation process for the first time. This radical shift in approach is expected to uncover human-centric insights about how we keep warm and use hot water. This will enable Baxi to develop tailored propositions to support their mission of creating lifetime loyalty by providing heating comfort for the UK.

A new way of looking at online shopping deliveries, whether the recipient is a householder, business or public body.  The Delivery Mate project by Hubl Logistics Ltd aims to puts the recipient in control.  It enhances the customer experience while reducing pollution and congestion.

The Future Care UK Ltd’s project to develop a wearable monitoring system for infants of less than 12 months, allowing the NHS to monitor the wellbeing of infants more efficiently. This will mean sick babies can live at home with their parents, babies at risk of infection or neglect can be quickly identified and attended to by doctors, and parents can be reassured that their babies are well. The key to the success of this project is not the technology (which is commonplace) but ensuring that the needs of patients, parents and hospital staff are properly understood and that the designs are tested by them.

Bramble Energy is a recent UK start-up, manufacturing printed circuit board fuel cells.  This project aims to broaden our approach to innovation from predominantly engineering driven to one in which user needs drive technology development. Embedding user-centred design in Bramble Energy will ensure that new products will better meet user needs and be market read after the first full design cycle.  This will reduce our development costs and time to market, putting us ahead of our competitors.

Thames&Hudson is a leading publisher and distributor of books on visual culture. In common with most illustrated book publishers, they’ve remained firmly in the book-as-a-physical object domain despite widespread digital disruption in the publishing industry. As the digital (ebook) consumption of illustrated books is minimal compared to non-illustrated fiction books, this project aims to investigate how mobile technology can enhance and augment the physical experience of discovering and buying and ultimately enjoying such books, what the main customer segments are, what are their motivations for owning a physical copy and what are their unmet needs in the digital space.

A project to reduce the impact of abandoned tents at musical festivals (more than 1-in-5 tents are abandoned). The project’s aim led by Comp-A-Tent is to develop new products/services that use existing infrastructure at festivals to prevent abandonment, reduce environmental and economic costs and spread responsibility across manufacturers, festival owners, waste companies and consumers. In this way we hope to create a green, circular solution, with clear use and cost benefits to all parties.

Ben Griffin, innovation lead for design at Innovate UK said: “Great design puts people at the centre of the creative process, inspiring solutions that are not only technically feasible but also more desirable and useful. This is important because, whilst technology can make new ideas possible, its people that ultimately make them successful. Design has greater impact and value when it’s used early to clarify the opportunity, inspire the creative process, support decision making, improve communications and reduce the risk of costly late-stage discoveries and re-work.

“The UK has world-class design capability but, too often, our technology innovators don’t use it to best advantage and miss out on potential value and competitive advantage as a result. This new competition aims to support businesses seeking to integrate human-centred design into their innovation process.”