Digital Catapult finds business boosted by start-ups

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Collaborating with start-ups is part of the long-term business strategy for manufacturers looking for skills and creativity outside of their organisation.

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This is one of the findings from a Digital Catapult survey carried out amongst 100 UK manufacturing leaders which found 73 per cent of respondents looking to partner with start-ups.

A further 82 per cent said that working with start-ups will help them accelerate digital transformation objectives.

Only a quarter said collaborating with start-up businesses to experiment with technologies is a priority in the next 12 months, despite 92 per cent of those who have already worked with a start-up saying they would do so again. Top barriers to manufacturing leaders working with start-ups included a fear of failure, and a lack of time.

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“Many manufacturing heavyweights are not making collaboration with innovative early-stage companies a priority in the next year, despite recognising the potential benefits,” said Jeremy Silver, Digital Catapult CEO. “Our survey suggests that there is a danger that UK companies will miss out on the opportunity to be early adopters of new technologies, and learn from start-ups’ creativity, innovation and agility.”

The survey results come as Digital Catapult’s 12-month Made Smarter Technology Accelerator concludes, having resulted in four start-up-led minimum viable products (MVPs) developed quickly for BAE Systems, Babcock, Northumbrian Water Group and Safran Landing Systems.

The Made Smarter Technology Accelerator sees manufactures partner with start-ups to develop real-world innovations tackling major challenges. This year’s programme has supported 14 start-ups, who were given a share of nearly £700,000.

One solution for Safran Landing Systems is likely to recoup over 30 minutes of lost production capacity per shop floor operator per day. This is said to represent the recovery of over 10,000 of lost production hours per year for a typical SME, plus a 10 per cent improvement in productivity and a 15 per cent reduction in downtime.

“We have gained access to start-ups and technology we otherwise would not easily get access to,” said Par Eliasson, Safran Landing Systems industrial project leader.This programme has helped us to engage quicker thanks to the support in defining our challenges and finding appropriate start-up candidates to help us overcome them.

“Total Control Pro and Zizo have helped us develop our own digital technologies and understanding of them. At the same time we believe we have helped smaller tech start-ups even further with developing their products and experimenting with their great ideas.

MVPs in full:

Machine Intelligence Ltd (BAE Systems): the MVP will use machine learning to identify defects in manufacturing, improve the quality of the end product, reduce waste and save money

JetSoft (Babcock International Group): this solution both reduces reliance on paper-based reporting to improve shop floor efficiency, and utilises existing equipment to create automatic 3D inspections – improving understanding of faults and operating performance

Total Control Pro (Safran Landing Systems): Total Control Pro has developed a data-driven planning, scheduling and resource optimisation solution to tackle the challenges of complex planning and resource management

Riscon Solutions and Inventia UK (Northumbrian Water): this project delivers cloud-enabled, remote water quality monitoring solutions

Commenting, Juergen Maier, chair of Digital Catapult and co-chair of Made Smarter said: “In tumultuous times, it can be tempting for businesses to cut costs rather than invest. Yet, for the UK manufacturing sector to thrive and become a world leader, we need to find ways to encourage innovation and the adoption of digital technologies.

“The Made Smarter Technology Accelerator – and the wider Made Smarter national movement – is designed to do just that by fostering relationships between technology innovators and manufacturers to solve genuine industry challenges.”