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Competitions offer up to £1.5m of funding for supply-chain ideas

06 July, 2020

The UK government has launched two funding competitions to help British businesses develop world-leading digital technologies to improve manufacturing supply chain productivity and resilience, thus boosting the recovery from Covid-19. Business-led consortia will be able to apply for up to £1.5m of funding for projects designed to transform supply chains, and to help make the UK’s manufacturing sector more efficient, flexible and resilient.

The competitions – one for feasibility studies, the other for industrial research – have been launched by Made Smarter and UK Research and Innovation, with the funding coming from the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, led by Innovate UK. The aim is to promote innovative digital approaches that rethink and restructure the way businesses design and operate supply chains.

The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the fragility of supply chains, and the importance of supply chain visibility and resilience both now and in the future. The competitions aim to encourage the development and use of technologies such as AI (artificial Intelligence) to improve supply chains by predicting shortages, demand spikes and supplies into chains.

“Post-Covid, more use of digital technologies can have a turbo-charging effect on kick-starting the economy as a whole,” says Made Smarter co-chair, Juergen Maier. “Creating resilient and efficient supply chains is a key component of that, where better data analytics, modelling and connectivity can help drill down into supply chains and improve efficiencies very significantly.

“Looking to improve supply chain operations will give businesses a much-needed boost as they work flat out to replenish their order books as we slowly come out of the current crisis,” he adds. “This new funding pot will enable the best and most forward-thinking minds to come together to create world-class supply chain technologies which will end up being the new must-have for companies in the global market.”

Juergen Maier: giving businesses a much-needed boost

Businesses applying for the new funding can be looking to improve results from existing supply chains, to redesign or re-engineer these chains, or to design completely new supply chain concepts for new products or processes. Companies of any size can apply and the consortia must include at least one SME. The projects can range in size from £250,000 to £3m.

Successful SMEs which are technology developers or manufacturers will receive funding to cover up to 70% of their project costs. The projects can take up to two years to complete.

Both innovation competitions open on 6 July, with the deadline for applications being 7 October. Online briefings for both competitions will take place on 14 July, and there will be a series of series of collaboration-building events during July.

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