Digital investment fund open to food manufacturers

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Food and drink manufacturers can apply for a share of the Government's £147m ‘Manufacturing Made Smarter’ investment
Food and drink manufacturers can apply for a share of the Government's £147m ‘Manufacturing Made Smarter’ investment

Related tags Internet Innovation

UK food and drink manufacturers could soon benefit from a £20m round of funding for digital technology development from the Government.

The funding is part of a £147m ‘Manufacturing Made Smarter’ investment by the Government in the UK’s manufacturing capabilities through the implementation of industrial digital technologies.

Now in its second round of applications, the first round involved UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) awarding 14 innovative projects across food and beverage, aerospace, automotive and pharmaceuticals a share of the £20m.

Raynor Foods – winner of the Food Manufacture Company of the Year at this year’s Food Manufacture Excellence Awards​ – won funding with its digitized food supply chain project, The Digital Sandwich (see box below).

Investments of up to £50m

The £20m funding is enhanced by industrial investments worth £30m, creating a total pot of £50m.  Other projects looked at concepts such as digital twins, additive manufacturing and Internet of Things technologies across four themes – connected factories, connected supply chains, flexible manufacturing operations and design, make test.

UKRI challenge director Chris Courtney said the current challenges caused by the outbreak of COVID-19 underlined the vital importance of the UK’s manufacturing sector.

“There are enormous opportunities to innovate in this area, we have world leading industries, a powerful scientific and research community, a vibrant technology sector and I’m excited to see how this powerful coalition transforms the future of manufacturing,”​ said Courtney.

The Manufacturing Made Smarter challenge programme also aims to create a connected ecosystem of the UK's leading companies large and small, large technology developers and new start-ups and spinouts. UKRI hopes this network would increase the number of collaborations up the value chain. 

‘Strengthening the sector’

Manufacturing Made Smarter industrial advisory group chair Hamid Mughal added: “We have tremendous manufacturing capability in the UK and recent events have reinforced the importance of strengthening this sector for national resilience and economic growth.

“This programme is a key step forward as it will help UK Manufacturing companies to jointly address this challenge and develop cost-effective digital solutions for deployment in our Manufacturing Sector.”

Entries for the second round of funding are open now and close on 7 October. Funding of £20m will support innovative feasibility studies and industrial research projects, while small to medium-sized enterprises can apply for up to 70% funding towards project costs.

Meanwhile, innovations from across the food and drink sector have made the shortlist to this year’s Royal Society of Chemistry Emerging Technologies Competition.

The Digital Sandwich – Digitised Food Supply Chain

Raynor Foods is leading a project to create the ‘Digital Sandwich’ – the world’s first national and ‘open’ software platform: a major piece of software that smaller programmes can operate within.

Food and drinks businesses can connect online using these programmes to share valuable data - increasing productivity, improving cashflow, boosting food quality and reducing waste within the supply chain. This includes SMEs, who don’t usually have access to this kind of technology.

The platform is intended to have eventual applications for sectors such as pharmaceutical, aerospace and automotive.

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