The UK steel, pharmaceutical and transport manufacturing industry are receiving a £30mn investment
Three new research and innovation hubs are set to support the British manufacturing sector amidst growing geopolitical and economic uncertainties, and open up new opportunities within steel, pharmaceutical and transport manufacturing.
Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), the £30mn (US$39mn) investment will see the hubs connect with industry leaders, such as Rolls Royce, Siemens and more, who will work alongside research teams to drive new, digitally led, sustainable innovations within steel production, bio-manufacturing, and electrical machinery.
The EPSRC is the main funding body for engineering and physical sciences research in the UK. By building the knowledge and skills base needed to address scientific and technological challenges, the Future Biomanufacturing Research Hub (FBRH) will receive £2mn co-funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). Funded by government, BBSRC invested £498 million in world-class bioscience in 2017-18.
Led by Professor Nigel Scrutton at The University of Manchester, alongside spokesmen at Imperial, UCL, Nottingham, the UK Catalysis Hub, IBioIC and CPI, it will develop new technologies based on industrial biotech to deliver efficient, sustainable and innovative bio-based manufacturing in three key sectors - Pharmaceuticals; Value-added Chemicals and Engineering Materials.
Industry Minister Richard Harrington said: "This investment brings together world-class researchers and leading manufacturing firms to help revolutionise how key industries like steel operate in the future. These developments will help us build a smarter, greener and more efficient manufacturing sector in the UK which is a key part of our modern Industrial Strategy to harness the opportunities of clean growth creating more high-skilled jobs.”
Professor Lynn Gladden, EPSRC's Executive Chair, added: "There's a real need to mesh fundamental research with our manufacturing industries. By doing so we can ensure that research is relevant to industrial need but also that UK businesses can be in touch with the latest developments in their fields.”
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The SUSTAIN Manufacturing Hub will be led by Professor David Worsley at Swansea University, and has been co-created by the five major UK steel producers (Tata, Liberty, British Steel, Celsa, and Sheffield Forgemasters) and the three principal Universities that have significant expertise: Swansea, Warwick and Sheffield.
The hub will work to deliver academic leadership in steel innovation, influence policy and work with existing hubs and accelerate the implementation of research findings through to manufacture. The investment will complement its aim to radically transform the carbon intensity of the process of producing the world's most widely used advanced material and at the same time tailor its application to emerging manufacturing opportunities for electrification of transport, manufactured buildings and sustainable packaging.
Lastly, the Future Electrical Machines Manufacturing Hub will look to put UK manufacturing at the forefront capturing increased value in the electrical machine supply chain and deliver substantial environmental benefits. Led by Professor Geraint Jewell at the University of Sheffield, with spokesmen at Newcastle University and the University of Strathclyde, it will address the challenges in the production of high value electrical machines within the aerospace, automotive, premium consumer and energy sectors, alongside leading industry players, such as Siemens, Dyson Limited and Hoganas AB.
“The rapid move towards the electrification of transport and the surge in renewable energy generation is making this an exciting time for the manufacture of electrical machines in the UK. This is the first activity to combine electrical machines expertise with a broad range of manufacturing research expertise in a long-term programme of research at scale,” commented Professor Jewell.
Professor Keith Ridgway, founder and Executive Dean of the AMRC, stated: “The Hub will play a crucial role in addressing key challenges around the manufacture of electrical machines and we’re delighted to be part of a strong, collaborative team whose combined talents and capabilities are at the very cutting edge of advanced technologies and digital manufacturing research.
Fluent.ai x BSH: Voice Automating the Assembly Line
Fluent.ai has deployed its voice recognition solutions in one of BSH’s German factories. BSH leads the market in producing connected appliances—its brands include Bosch, Siemens, Gaggenau, NEFF, and Thermador, and with this new partnership, the company intends to cut transition time in its assembly lines.
According to BSH, voice automation will yield 75-100% efficiency gains—but it’s the collaboration between the two companies that stands out. ‘After considering 11 companies for this partnership, we chose Fluent.ai because of their key competitive differentiators’, explained Ion Hauer, Venture Partner at BSH Startup Kitchen.
What Sets Fluent.ai Apart?
After seven years of research, the company developed a wide range of artificial intelligence (AI) software products to help original equipment manufacturers (OEM) expand their services. Three key aspects stood out to BSH, which operates across the world and in unique factory environments.
- Robust noise controls. The system can operate even in loud conditions.
- Low latency. The AI understands commands quickly and accurately.
- Multilingual support. BSH can expand the automation to any of its 50+ country operations.
How Voice Automation Works
Instead of pressing buttons, BSH factory workers will now be able to speak into a headset fitted with Fluent.ai’s voice recognition technology. After uttering a WakeWord, workers can use a command to start assembly line movement. As the technology is hands-free, workers benefit from less physical strain, which will both reduce employee fatigue and boost line production.
‘Implementing Fluent’s technology has already improved efficiencies within our factory, with initial implementation of the solution cutting down the transition time from four seconds to one and a half”, said Markus Maier, Project Lead at the BSH factory. ‘In the long run, the production time savings will be invaluable’.
Future Global Adoption
In the coming years, BSH and Fluent.ai will continue to push for artificial intelligence on factory lines, pursuing efficiency, ergonomics, and a healthy work environment. ‘We started with Fluent.ai on one factory assembly line, moved to three, and [are now] considering rolling the technology out worldwide’, said Maier.
Said Probal Lala, Fluent.ai’s CEO: ‘We are thrilled to be working with BSH, a company at the forefront of innovation. Seeing your solution out in the real world is incredibly rewarding, and we look forward to continuing and growing our collaboration’.