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Insights from History – video introduction

By widening their field of vision through cases from history, this InterAct funded team from Cranfield and Aston Universities argue that today’s manufacturers have the chance during this digital transition to increase their appreciation of the potential risks and opportunities that lie ahead, and perhaps even stimulate creative solutions to them.

This historical case search revealed that there are dozens of issues that merit attention both within manufacturing operations (new safety questions, choices of innovation pathways, naivety about technical solutions) and outside of them (the power of location, globalization and culture, negative social consequences of innovation) which hardly figure on the lists of challenges for digitalization.

In this video, the team introduces the themes of their work and the topics which they have addressed in their various outputs.

This research was conducted by Dr. Ahmad Beltagui, Dr. Brian Sudlow of Aston University Dr. Miying Yang and Glen Jonata.of Cranfield University, and Qinglan Liu of Exeter University.

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Learning from histories: a systematic review of historical industrial transitions – report

The transition to sustainability coincides with an industrial digitalization. While this latest industrial revolution creates new challenges, it also revives historical ones encountered in previous transitions. Through two parallel systematic reviews, challenges are identified for the current digitalization transition and historical transitions: mechanization, electrification and computerization.

The aim of this research is to identify lessons from history that may help overcome the challenges of industrial digitalization. The paper provides illustrative examples of social factors that are either internal to a technology adopting organization or external, related to wider societal change. These factors suggest actionable insights that may support the adoption of Industrial Digital Technologies.

This research was conducted by Dr. Ahmad Beltagui, Dr. Brian Sudlow of Aston University Dr. Miying Yang and Glen Jonata.of Cranfield University, and Qinglan Liu of Exeter University.

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Insights from History: technological change in the mining industry – animated explainer

By widening their field of vision through cases from history, this InterAct funded team from Cranfield and Aston Universities argue that today’s manufacturers have the chance during this digital transition to increase their appreciation of the potential risks and opportunities that lie ahead, and perhaps even stimulate creative solutions to them.

In this video, the team examines how small scale technological changes in the mining industry influenced the lives and capabilities of people employed in the sector, and how this is relevant today.

This research was conducted by Dr. Ahmad Beltagui, Dr. Brian Sudlow of Aston University Dr. Miying Yang and Glen Jonata.of Cranfield University, and Qinglan Liu of Exeter University.

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Making investments into digitalisation: the manufacturer’s perspective – animated explainer

The competitiveness of industry in the UK is dependent on the rapidly growing digitalisation of manufacturers. Digitalisation provides the opportunity to drive the efficiency and innovativeness of manufacturers, and forms the basis for creating new business models. Yet, manufacturers are lagging in their investments into digitalisation and risk missing out on capturing the opportunities digitalisation offers. This video outlines the specific challenges the manufacturing industry faces with making effective investments into digitalisation and identifies the key questions they should address to overcome them.

This research was conducted by Dr Andreas Schroeder, Dr Yang Zhao and Dr Daniel Andrews of Aston University.

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Making investments into digitalisation: the manufacturer’s perspective – mini-guide

The competitiveness of industry in the UK is dependent on the rapidly growing digitalisation of manufacturers. Digitalisation provides the opportunity to drive the efficiency and innovativeness of manufacturers, and forms the basis for creating new business models. Yet, manufacturers are lagging in their investments into digitalisation and risk missing out on capturing the opportunities digitalisation offers. This mini-guide outlines the specific challenges the manufacturing industry faces with making effective investments into digitalisation and identifies the key questions they should address to overcome them.

This research was conducted by Dr Andreas Schroeder, Dr Yang Zhao and Dr Daniel Andrews of Aston University.

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Digital investment for manufacturers: a literature review of challenges and good practices – report

Although the importance of digitalisation as a critical source of innovation and competitiveness among manufacturers is widely accepted, manufacturers struggle to make the necessary investments to capture these opportunities. To support manufacturers with their digitalisation journey, it is critical to develop a detailed understanding of the digital investment challenges manufacturers are facing and how they can be overcome.

This report provides the findings of a systematic review of the academic and grey literature carried out to establish the state of the art on what is known on the diverse organisational, technical and process challenges manufacturers are facing with their investment into digitalisation and the good practices that are available to address them. It also evaluates the current theoretical contributions and gaps in the existing literature to develop a research agenda to help researchers target and accelerate their future investigations on the digitalisation of the manufacturing industry.

This research was conducted by Dr Andreas Schroeder, Dr Yang Zhao and Dr Daniel Andrews of Aston University.

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News

InterAct Network plans to bring new human insights to manufacturing sector

The InterAct team was recently able to share insights and plans for the Network’s future with The Manufacturer magazine:

InterAct is a new Made Smarter Innovation funded network that aims to bring together economic and social scientists, UK manufacturers, and digital technology providers to address the human issues resulting from the diffusion of new technologies in industry.

Substantial government funding has been invested in technological innovation and digitalisation within the manufacturing sector through the Made Smarter Innovation programme. The InterAct Network seeks to build on these developments and explore new facets of the challenges arising from introduction of innovative technologies, upskilling, and changes to processes.

The project will be led by InterAct co-directors Professor Jan Godsell of Loughborough University and Professor Jillian MacBryde of Strathclyde University. They bring with them a wealth of academic experience and an established presence in the UK manufacturing sector.

InterAct’s long-term vision is to build a vibrant interdisciplinary community to support the development of a stronger, more resilient UK manufacturing base. The project will build relationships between industry representatives and academics through an extensive programme of collaborative events and digital connection.

Discussing this vision, Professor MacBryde said: “We know that technology alone is not enough to revolutionise the way we approach innovation in the manufacturing sector. We need to harness the knowledge of people and society to really reap the full benefits that these new technologies can offer. Collaborative working, new challenges, and contexts will open up new avenues for us to undertake world-leading research.

Professor Godsell added: “Our aspiration for the Network is a to create a truly interactive community, with clear added-value for all, where stakeholder groups want to engage and play a part. We will embed equality, diversity, and inclusivity in all our approaches, and this diversity of thought will bring the benefits of multiple perspectives.”

The Network will facilitate the examination of contemporary real-world problems within the sector and the sharing of solutions to these obstacles stemming from a variety of funded research. This includes knowledge exchange activities, impact acceleration funding, digital storytelling fellowships, early career research fellowships and open calls. This expansive programme will be tied together by three workstreams encompassing:

The Future of Manufacturing Ecosystems:

Whilst there has been significant work around digital disruption and the direction of travel of manufacturing globally, there has been less focus on translating this into something more applicable by UK companies and policy makers.

Professor Godsell’s team aims to develop the future of the manufacturing ecosystems by identifying possible future scenarios, developing business model archetypes, and defining the role of Industrial Digital Technologies (IDTs) in business and supply chains.

The Future of Work

This theme addresses one of the areas highlighted in the Network’s initial viability survey, particularly around the impact of IDTs on work, the impact of automation on job satisfaction, innovation and productivity, and the people dimension of ecosystem connectivity.

Two main challenges proposed by industry and policy stakeholders will be addressed by Professor MacBryde’s group; attracting talent into manufacturing and ensuring investment decisions include thinking about people and work.

The Future of the Economy

Led by Professor Vania Sena of Sheffield University, the working group will focus on investigating digitalisation, and the levelling up agenda, diffusion and high-growth, and the effects on industrial structure, social mobility, and the economy.

What does the InterAct Network aim to achieve?

By combining the insights of business and academia, the InterAct Network will endeavour to accomplish the following objectives:

  • Increase the UK manufacturing sectors’ investment in industrial digitalisation R&D, innovation, and diffusion of new digital technologies.
  • Improve collaboration between UK manufacturing stakeholder groups to drive the creation of common digital solutions by working with firms to identify and share the underlying mechanisms and management practices within specific solution.
  • Increase the number of digital technology companies providing solutions for manufacturing industries by improving the visibility of technology providers’ offerings and developing relationships to minimise the barriers to adoption.
  • Increase the number of collaborations between Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) and larger, more established companies up the value chain by facilitating new connections.
  • Expand the potential for the export of UK manufacturing and digital manufacturing solutions by generating an improved understanding of the economic landscape, policy drivers, and required capabilities through academic research.

How to get involved and start interacting

The InterAct Network is still in the early stages of growth and development, with an exciting programme of events planned for 2022 and beyond. These events represent excellent opportunities for businesses to have a tangible impact on the shaping of research funding calls and joint projects.

You can keep up to date with all the latest news and upcoming events from the Network and register for the InterAct mailing list via their website, or follow them on LinkedIn and Twitter.