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£14 Million Funding For Sustainable Smart Factory Projects

UK Research and Innovation has announced the winners of almost £14 million ($15.4 M) in combined backing from its latest funding opportunity under the ‘Made Smarter’ innovation challenge, the Sustainable Smart Factory competition.

The collaborative research and development competition sought to identify and support digital innovations to improve the sustainability of manufacturing processes, resulting in either reduced material or energy consumption.

Projects applying for funding were required to show an innovative development and application of data or digital technology that could help optimise material usage, reduce, reuse or separate waste materials, lower energy consumption to increase sustainability throughout an area of production.

In total, 12 projects were successful in their applications, which involved securing between £1 million and £8 million in funding each offering solutions for a wide range of manufactured goods and industrial processes across a number of sectors spanning aerospace, automotive, plastics, electronics and various engineering disciplines.

It is estimated the projects could create 1,000 jobs in the 3 years after their completion, while reducing manufacturing carbon dioxide emissions by 300,000 tonnes a year. This is the equivalent to taking nearly 65,000 cars off the road.

The winners included Project Butterfly which brings together a consortium of UK manufacturing organisations, solution providers and research organisations, working across a number of UK sectors. They share best practice and demonstrate the power of industry 4.0 to deliver near-term impact on the road to net zero manufacturing. Project Butterfly was awarded £4 million.

Small changes can have a big impact; this is known as the butterfly effect. It is this principle that Project Butterfly looks to use to accelerate progress to net zero. The project has a specific focus on improving efficiency in the use of materials and energy by using manufacturing data to optimise processes, increase right-first-time yield, provide visibility of information to everyone in the factory

This can be achieved by using data to automatically update the schedule to deliver the most efficient use of energy. Using data from the process to improve the process by making it more efficient or increase the right-first-time yield.

The ECO-SPRINT project received £1 million and focuses on the aligned sustainability and productivity needs of manufacturing SMEs. Starting with a focus on energy-intensive aerospace special finishing processes, it will go on to demonstrate scalability through deployment in other sectors. The project will combine various cutting-edge technologies into which sustainability intelligence capability will be integrated, including vision intelligence, internet of things sensors, smart manufacturing execution system and a ‘customer portal’ giving foresight of demand

ECO-SPRINT will take a triple bottom line approach and enable SMEs to capture appropriate insight into manual operations to enable optimisation, risk reduction and digitalised knowledge transfer, enable real-time optimisation of operations (for productivity and sustainability) based on customer demand, resulting in major savings in energy costs and carbon footprint and gather data on energy, carbon and material footprint that can be communicated and aggregated across supply chains.

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