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Digitalisation network links UK industry and universities

22 September, 2017

Siemens and the University of Sheffield have launched a partnership to accelerate digitalisation, boost digital skills, and promote technology and knowledge exchange to meet the needs of increasingly-digitalised industry. The agreement is the first collaboration in a multi-million pound, UK-wide digitalisation network that will link businesses and universities using the Internet of Things (IoT) to exploit the opportunities offered by digital technology.

The partnership is based on the MindSphere Innovation Network (MINe) developed by Siemens to connect a university’s estate and research assets with its MindSphere cloud-based IoT platform. This data will be used to improve teaching and research collaborations between academics and industry partners, to uncover new business models, and to create new commercial opportunities through digitalisation.

The University and Siemens have also invested in a space for collaboration and learning between students, local businesses and other partners. Called the MindSphere Lounge, it is located in the Diamond building – the University’s biggest-ever investment in learning and teaching. Students, academics, industry partners and Siemens experts will use the area to access MindSphere to harness the value of the data produced by the University and the various projects connected to the cloud-based platform.

Siemens UK CEO, Juergen Maier, who has led the Government’s industrial digitalisation review, says: “Using digital technologies to transform business operations is key for the UK to drive competitiveness, improve national productivity and take advantage of the commercial opportunities offered by an increasingly digitalised industry.”

The MindSphere Innovation Network will allow universities to give their research real-world impact by harnessing the power of digitalisation. The aim is to help develop the skills needed for the future, build the UK’s capabilities in data science, enable the development of new business models, and create opportunities for start-up businesses.

Teams from Siemens will be based on the Sheffield campus to help projects and to engage communities by enabling it and other universities to become hubs for collaborating with local businesses.

Partners in digitalisation: Siemens UK CEO Juergen Maier with Professor Sir Keith Burnett, president and vice-chancellor of the University of Sheffield

“This innovative network heralds a new eco-system enabled by MindSphere, which will provide a vital new model for collaboration between institutions, departments and other key stakeholders to universities,” Maier says.

According to Professor Sir Keith Burnett, president and vice-chancellor at the University of Sheffield, the “pioneering” strategic partnership between Siemens and the University “marks a significant milestone in our commitment to innovative technologies and progressive partnership with business. The digital revolution is transforming all parts of society, including industry, so it is vital that students and academics grasp the potential for data to fundamentally change the way we approach problems and opportunities.

“Just as business moves towards Industry 4.0, we are matching this with 'Education 4.0' in which students, academics and business come together in a shared digital environment to solve problems and boost productivity,” he adds. “So this exciting collaboration with Siemens is not only a UK first, but a vital step in demonstrating how universities and companies connect students and business with the local and global bid to drive productivity and build the skills of the future."

MindSphere will allow the University to harness data from projects across sectors including manufacturing, water and energy, helping it to overcome the barriers associated with giving research real-world impact. For example, MindSphere de-risks as a platform because it is scalable and secure and the partnership between Siemens and universities ensures developed products are supported over the long term, which can sometimes be a concern for a company looking to purchase a development from a university.

The announcement of the UK-wide digitalisation network comes as the widespread adoption of digitalisation is seen as being crucial to the UK’s competitiveness and productivity.

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