University of Sheffield takes central role in new digital manufacturing research centres, with the aim of boosting UK manufacturing productivity

The University of Sheffield is to play a key role in the UK’s new Manufacturing Made Smarter research centres announced today (27 July 2021).

An engineer looking at a tablet next to a production line inside a factory
  • University of Sheffield awarded funding to lead a new £5 million Materials Made Smarter Research Centre
  • University of Sheffield also a key partner in new £7 million Research Centre for Connected Factories
  • New centres will focus on digital manufacturing, partnering with industry and higher education institutions to address the challenges of digital adoption

The University of Sheffield is to play a key role in the UK’s new Manufacturing Made Smarter research centres announced today (27 July 2021).

The University of Sheffield is involved in two of the five new research centres, leading on the Materials Made Smarter Centre. The centres will focus on helping the UK’s manufacturing industry become more productive and competitive through innovation and the adoption of digital technologies. 

Working together to bridge the gap between basic research and its application in manufacturing, providing a pipeline of digital technologies for the future, leading manufacturers, technology companies and higher education institutions have the power to transform the future of manufacturing in the UK.

The Materials Made Smarter Centre (MMSC) will be led by Professor Iain Todd from the University’s Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

In partnership with UCL and the Universities of Cambridge, Brunel, Nottingham and Swansea, the MMSC will bring together leading researchers in materials, advanced manufacturing, modelling, physical computing, psychology and management across the whole materials manufacturing value chain.

The MMSC will work with High Value Manufacturing Catapult Centres, including the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) and National Composites Centre (NCC), as well as The Materials Processing Institute and industrial partners including Rolls-Royce, Tata and Constellium.

Speaking about the announcement, Professor Todd said: “Our aim is to put the UK’s materials intensive processing industries at the forefront of the UK’s technological advancement and green recovery from the dual impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic and rapid environmental change.”

The new centre has been co-created by academia and industry as a response to the pressing need to revolutionise the way we manufacture and value materials in our economy.

Professor Todd continued: “We will develop the advanced digital technologies and tools to enable the verification, validation, certification and traceability of materials manufacturing and will work with partners to address the challenges of digital adoption. Digitalisation of the materials thread will drive productivity improvements, realise new business models and change the way we value and use materials.”

The new centre will be integrated and closely aligned to other large scale fundamental manufacturing projects at Sheffield, such as the Manufacture using Advanced Powder Processes Future Manufacturing Hub (MAPP), the Henry Royce Institute, and other funded projects at the partner institutes. 

Today’s announcement also named the University of Sheffield as a key partner in the Research Centre for Connected Factories, cementing Sheffield’s role in leading digital manufacturing research in the UK. 

Led by the University of Nottingham and in partnership with the University of Cambridge, the centre aims to develop a radical new approach to building the manufacturing infrastructure of the future, based on rapidly adaptable factories, which can autonomously morph into different configurations to best adapt to specific product and volume requirements, supply variations and internal disruptions. Industry partners include Airbus, BAE Systems, GKN, BMW, Nestle, Siemens and Fanuc Robotics.

At the University of Sheffield, the activities for this research centre will be undertaken by the Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering (ACSE) and the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) with Professor Ashutosh Tiwari, Airbus/RAEng Research Chair, as the lead from Sheffield.

Professor Tiwari said: “Our centre will contribute to building and maintaining a resilient and sustainable world leading manufacturing sector in the UK, that can respond to changing demand by continuously adapting, repurposing, relocating and reusing available manufacturing capabilities. We will deliver an integrated platform of fundamental and translational research with catapult centres and industry to achieve this ambition through smart digital manufacturing technologies.”

Through UKRI’s Manufacturing Made Smarter Challenge under the ISCF, UK Government has invested £147million, matched by a minimum of £147million from industry, with the aim of delivering a resilient, flexible, more productive and environmentally sustainable UK manufacturing sector.

The Made Smarter programme builds on the Made Smarter Review, an industry-led review led by Professor Juergen Maier, former CEO Siemens UK, exploring how UK manufacturing can maximise benefits from increasing adoption of digital technology through a strong industry and government partnership.


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