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Future of Digital Manufacturing Ecosystems Report Resources

Future of Digital Manufacturing Ecosystems – 2040 scenarios

Overview

Disruption, digital innovation, new business models… the world of manufacturing is changing rapidly, perhaps faster than ever before. To adapt and survive, businesses must anticipate changes, identify opportunities and make informed decisions.
 
So, how can you be ready for the changes that lie ahead? How can you pivot to be equally productive and sustainable, delivering progress with purpose?
 
The InterAct Future of Digital Manufacturing Ecosystems research team has put together a vital report that brings you the information you need, at your fingertips, outlining potential future scenarios and the associated opportunities for the manufacturing world.
 
Future of Digital Marketing Ecosystems – 2040 Scenarios

These scenarios map out four potential alternatives for the digital manufacturers of tomorrow, including:

  • Productivity Powerhouse
  • Flexibility as Standard
  • Sustainability Champion
  • Happy and Sustainable Workforce

Download the report to find out more about how the most useful measure of sustainable progress is total factor productivity, which accounts for inputs beyond labour – such as materials, energy and administrative time – to compare them against total outputs. You will also learn how these inputs can be measured against one another, and how businesses can begin working towards achieving them.

As the report shows, by considering the human factors behind digitalisation today, you’ll be much better placed to build true resilience into your business tomorrow.

This research was conducted by Dr. Wanrong Zhang, Professor Janet Godsell and Dr. Kamran Chatha (Loughborough University). This work was supported by the UKRI Made Smarter Innovation Challenge and the Economic and Social Research Council via InterAct [Grant Reference ES/W007231/1].

For further discussions or potential applications/collaborations, please contact Jan Godsell.

Download “Report - Future of Digital Manufacturing Ecosystems: 2040 scenarios”

InterAct-2040-Scenarios-Report.pdf – Downloaded 2480 times – 3.82 MB
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Link Publication Report Resources

EU battery regulations 2023: UK readiness for battery passports and smart labelling

Overview

With the enactment of the new EU Battery Regulations, organisations are required to embrace Battery Passports and Smart Labelling, enabling transparency and sustainability in battery production and consumption. Recent research from InterAct funded researchers, however, highlights critical gaps in awareness, information availability, and operational readiness faced by UK organisations in aligning with these legislative changes. 
 
A representative survey was conducted to gauge the awareness and preparedness of 80 organisations in regard to the new EU Battery Regulations. An Industry-Academic round table discussion and follow-up interviews were then held to reflect on the implications for industry.  The results can be downloaded in the two reports below.

This research was conducted by Dr. Melanie King and Paul Timms (Loughborough University). This work was supported by the UKRI Made Smarter Innovation Challenge and the Economic and Social Research Council via InterAct [Grant Reference ES/W007231/1].

For further discussions or potential applications/collaborations, please contact Melanie King.

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InterAct Blog

The three pillars of technology adoption in the agri-food industry: provision, people and practicality

There are terms we hear constantly in the agriculture and food sectors right now – industry 4.0, smart processes, robotic automation, Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are all common buzzwords. However, while understanding the benefits of these formative ideas is relatively straightforward, putting them into practice relies on the collection, utilisation and analysis of data – data that needs to be digitally available to make this possible.

Adopting solutions that drive forward these tech advancements offers great potential in leveraging growth and productivity, but there is one sticking point. The UK agri-food industry is notoriously slow in adopting new technologies.

Of course, extraordinary events such as the Covid-19 pandemic, have accelerated the adoption of some digital technologies out of necessity, but the overall feeling has traditionally been one of reluctance, with various contributory factors including cost, resource, and general attitudes.

How to convince the sector to embrace change

There are three pillars that need to be considered to provide agri-food businesses with the confidence to adopt technology: provision, people, and practicality. These will in turn enable businesses to access the benefits that digitisation and data connectedness will bring. Let’s break them down one at a time.

Provision

It’s not that technologies haven’t been developed and tested – they have. It’s that less attention has been paid to actually provisioning tech specifically for the agri-food industry. Often technologies that make their way into the agri-food sector have been developed with a use case or other industry in mind. Only after this is the potential for it to be applied within agri-food production and/or manufacturing recognised.

Look at blockchain – its origins are in fintech, designed to trade digital currency bitcoin without the need for a trusted authority such as a bank. But repurpose this technology into the agri-food space, where it was pivoted to be an emerging technology to disincentivise and prevent fraud, and it’s clear it isn’t completely fit for purpose in its legacy form.

Why? Because the decentralised nature of blockchain means that using a typical payment model based on the number of transactions, where there are many transactions, is just not possible in a high volume/low margin sector like agri-food. So, in reality it, is just too costly to roll out. An obvious takeaway here is that if technologies are to be adapted and provisioned with the agri-food sector in mind, then it is vital that the technology providers have an in-depth knowledge of the agri-food sector.

People

It isn’t just provisioning where technology adoption currently falters. We need to shine a spotlight on how we get people to buy in. The breakdown here might not be where you think. While the benefit technology can bring to businesses is often understood on a macro level within the food industry, particularly by those in thought leadership positions, it is the onboarding of this technology’s main users that has proved more difficult.

This is not generally due to the people, but because of the change it involves. The benefits of this new way of working are not always immediately or overtly obvious to users. In fact, as a technology provider, I am often met with statements of resistance, such as: “because this is the way it has always been done”. However, this struggle to accept new technologies is often associated with a fear of change and being replaced by machines. That’s why it is so important that technology providers acknowledge these concerns and take them into consideration, reassuring users of the benefits during implementation.

Practicality

Addressing the practical aspects of a digital way of working within agri-food is the final part of making technology adoption more accessible. The responsibility here lies with the tech providers.

The processes, changes, and practical steps required to implement a new tech into a business are often confused and even misunderstood, even by the technology companies themselves.

In general, the agri-food sector operates on a high-volume low-margin model, meaning that processes are tightly refined and controlled. The industry has worked hard over the last 20+ years to bring about operational efficiencies through automation, so that cost savings or profitability can be achieved.

During this period there has been less of a focus on digitising data and the value it could bring through actionable insights. When disruptive technologies enter this process, they need to do so with ease and not impact operations or processes. In addition, they need to add value rather than create costs for businesses. Furthermore, these technologies need to be able to cope with the intricacies and nuances that exist in the production and manufacturing environments. Put simply, sometimes technology will not be plug and play – especially in its infancy. 

The outcome here is that the inherent benefits of digitisation are not immediately obvious, as they would be with operation efficiency gains. It is critical that technology providers take the time to understand the specific business where they are attempting to implement technologies and provide solutions that will support and enhance the business.

The sector, the business & the people

Ultimately, an understanding of the many aspects of the agri-food sector is critical for technology providers. Without a clear view of not just the supplier-customer relationships and their dynamics, but also the supply chain, with its global complexity and fragmented nature, and the many actors involved in the supply chain, there are sure to be issues. A grasp of all these issues assures an appreciation of the intricacies involved in technology adoption in this sector. It also ensures that technology providers can recognise any stumbling blocks ahead, while partnership with customers enables the provision of technology that is fit for purpose.

As a technology provider, Foods Connected works specifically on implementing digital solutions with Food Business Operators. The implementation of these solutions in various environments requires knowledge and understanding of how each business operates, accompanied by knowledge about the wider complexities of the sector in general. That’s why our teams have all worked in the industry and understand the intricacies of each step of the supply chain process. Our people are experts – and that’s what we need to take technology adoption forward in the agri-food industry.

After all, technology adoption and implementation are inherently coupled with people – and one cannot exist without the other.

Want to learn more about digitalisation in the agri-food industry? Watch our recorded InterAct x Foods Connected webinar: Overcoming barriers to digitalisation: adding value in the agri-food sector
About the author

Stephanie is a Senior Implementation Manager at Foods Connected. With 11 years’ experience in academia, food manufacturing and food-tech and an undergraduate degree in Food Science and a PhD in Food Supply Chain Management, Stephanie has spent her career working in food manufacturing environments in a R&D capacity, as well as working on and managing several multi million pound research projects while working for Queen’s University Belfast. Stephanie has worked with Foods Connected for the last 2.5 years, implementing, managing and delivering successful digital transformation projects within the food industry.

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InterAct Blog

How can we attract the next generation of young talent into UK digital manufacturing careers by 2040?

Our exciting new project aims to develop a strategy to inform the rebranding of UK digital manufacturing to attract the next generation of talent into UK digital manufacturing careers by 2040.

In May 2023, the team members met at an InterAct research sandpit hosted by Loughborough University, which was held with the aim of developing research projects to accelerate the innovation and diffusion of Industrial Digital Technologies in UK manufacturing.

During the sandpit, it became clear that our interdisciplinary team shared a passion to make UK manufacturing a place that attracts, includes, and supports young talent from diverse backgrounds and mindsets. However, recent research conducted by MAKE UK reports only 2% of the average UK manufacturing workforce is currently below 30 years old [1].

Additionally, a recent InterAct 2023 survey on UK perceptions of manufacturing has found that younger generations identify UK manufacturing as an unattractive brand with uncertain employment prospects which is problematic for attracting ambitious and creative digital talent [2]. These negative perceptions in part could be attributed to older generational memories and experiences of physically demanding manufacturing jobs that fuelled the post-World War II economic recovery. Accounting for the rise of today’s digital labour market [3], these negative perceptions and experiences of UK manufacturing are likely to shape children and grandchildren’s career choices. This all adds up to a generational problem in UK manufacturing which is deep-rooted in the cross-generational experiences of what UK manufacturing once represented and the extensive and diverse career opportunities that are available today and will be realisable the future.

These preliminary findings paint an unsettling picture for UK manufacturing, especially when digital transformation has become a strategic priority for companies [4], industries [5] and countries [6]. At the country-level for example, if the UK is to pursue its levelling-up agenda and overcome its regional [7] and international [8] productivity gaps, then attracting young, digitally literate, and productive workers into well-paid, high-skilled manufacturing careers would seem an intuitive and rational approach. However, academic research continues to report that a major barrier for the digital transformation of older firms in various manufacturing sectors is the legacy of underperforming business models, inefficient workplace practices and traditional organisational structures [9], [10], [11].

These organisational legacies also raise the challenge that new digital competitors – such as the big technology firms and technology start-ups – are perceived to attract younger talent and the career aspirations of Generation Z [12] through creative workplace practices, new organisation designs and innovation cultures. 

Therefore, to address this problem, our project intends to co-create the most plausible future scenarios for rebranding UK digital manufacturing to help stakeholders attract the next generation of young talent into manufacturing careers by 2040. As our project is exploratory in design, we will interact with a range of policy makers, educators, employers, and university students to gather insights on how to attract young people into UK digital manufacturing careers by 2040. This will be conducted through six work packages that range from data mining four generations of manufacturing data held by the UK Office for National Statistics to interviews and focus groups with key stakeholders including business owners, industry bodies, technologists, policy makers, educators and students that are passionate about supporting the co-development of UK digital manufacturing.

We will also work with Strategic Innovation Ltd – a technology and innovation consultancy with a passion for sustainability – on a key output which will be the co-creation of a cross-generational map of peoples’ lived experiences of UK manufacturing. This will include both past and present experiences and will visualise potential rebranding opportunities for attracting the next generation of young talent into digital manufacturing careers by 2040.

By providing stakeholders with a visualisation of the future, our project will initiate  the development of a strategy for digital manufacturing careers that can play a central role in the UK’s economic and social development at home and overseas by attracting top talent into these roles.

If you or any colleagues would like to participate in our project, please contact Karl Warner, our Principal Investigator at karl.warner@glasgow.ac.uk for further information.  


References

[1] MAKE UK (2021) Manufacturing Our Recovery Through Inclusion (https://www.makeuk.org/insights/reports/manufacturing-our-recovery-through-inclusion)

[2] InterAct blog (2023) Future workforces: job quality & perceptions of UK manufacturing

(https://interact-hub.org/2023/05/23/future-workforces-job-quality-perceptions-of-uk-manufacturing/)

[3] Digital Skills & Jobs Europa (2023) The Rise of the Digital Labour Market (2022)

(https://digital-skills-jobs.europa.eu/en/inspiration/research/rise-digital-labour-market-2022)

[4] Sousa-Zomer, T. T., Neely, A., & Martinez, V. (2020). Digital transforming capability and performance: a microfoundational perspective. International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 40(7/8), 1095-1128.

[5] Ciarli, T., Kenney, M., Massini, S., & Piscitello, L. (2021). Digital technologies, innovation, and skills: Emerging trajectories and challenges. Research Policy, 50(7), 104289.

[6] Senna, P. P., Roca, J. B., & Barros, A. C. (2023). Overcoming barriers to manufacturing digitalization: Policies across EU countries. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 196, 122822.

[7] Office for National Statistics (2023) Regional labour productivity, UK: 2021

(https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/economicoutputandproductivity/productivitymeasures/bulletins/regionallabourproductivityincludingindustrybyregionuk/2021)

[8] Office for National Statistics (2023) International comparisons of UK productivity (ICP), final estimates: 2021

(https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/economicoutputandproductivity/productivitymeasures/bulletins/internationalcomparisonsofproductivityfinalestimates/2021)

[9] Warner, K. S., & Wäger, M. (2019). Building dynamic capabilities for digital transformation: An ongoing process of strategic renewal. Long range planning, 52(3), 326-349.

[10] Jones, M. D., Hutcheson, S., & Camba, J. D. (2021). Past, present, and future barriers to digital transformation in manufacturing: A review. Journal of Manufacturing Systems, 60, 936-948.

[11] Ates, A., & Acur, N. (2022). Making obsolescence obsolete: Execution of digital transformation in a high-tech manufacturing SME. Journal of Business Research, 152, 336-348.

[12] Barhate, B., & Dirani, K. M. (2022). Career aspirations of generation Z: a systematic literature review. European Journal of Training and Development, 46(1/2), 139-157.

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InterAct Blog

Empowering women in manufacturing: Unlocking the potential of gender-inclusive digitalisation

We are at a crossroads, with the opportunity either to progress towards a more equitable manufacturing landscape or to deepen existing gaps. The digitalisation of manufacturing provides a chance to transform the sector into a more inclusive and diverse one. However, if we do not take intentional and proactive steps, this digital transformation could instead reinforce prevailing norms and deepen gender inequalities.

In order to inspire and inform initiatives towards a more inclusive and diverse manufacturing sector, Cambridge Industrial Innovation Policy developed a policy brief to raise awareness about the challenges that women face when participating in manufacturing, while making the case for a gender-inclusive digitalisation. The policy brief was a key output of the InterAct-funded project Women in digital manufacturing and was conducted in collaboration with the Women in Manufacturing Initiative.

In this blog post, we will share some key takeaways from the policy brief.

What is the gender gap in UK manufacturing?

Gender norms and stereotypes segregate women and men into different occupations and economic activities. Although women represent almost half of the labour force in the UK, they account for just 26% of all workers in the manufacturing sector.  Women working in the manufacturing sector earn 17% less than their male peers.

Women from non-White backgrounds and women with disabilities are among the least represented population groups in UK manufacturing. According to 2022 data, women from non-White backgrounds account for 15% of the workforce, representing just 3% of manufacturing employees. In the same year, women with disabilities, as defined in the Equality Act 2010, represented 9% of the people in employment; however, they made up for less than 1% of the manufacturing workforce.

Representation of women in UK manufacturing is markedly lower in skilled trade occupations (9%); process, plant and machine operatives (23%); and managers and senior officials (23%). In comparison, women’s representation is larger in administrative and secretarial occupations (70%), personal services (55%), and sales and customer service (49%).

Traditional gendered division of labour persists in manufacturing industries. Men mostly dominate the automotive industry, while the pharmaceuticals, textiles, and apparel industries have a more equal representation of both genders.

Unpaid childcare and household work disproportionately affect women’s participation in manufacturing. Women in the UK spend 1.7 more time a day in unpaid childcare than men and 1.4 more time in household work.  This traditional gender-based division of unpaid work means that women face larger burdens to participate in paid work, particularly in positions with little flexibility or involving uncertain shifts and locations.

Because of this situation, women are more likely to work part-time than men. In 2022, 23% of the women working in manufacturing were working part-time, while only 5% of men were working part-time.

Challenges faced by women in the UK manufacturing sector

We invited stakeholders from the manufacturing sector to participate in an online survey to understand the challenges women face to participate in the sector. Survey participants perceive that the prevailing non-inclusive culture, which continues to favour men over women in manufacturing roles, is the primary hurdle to the participation of women in the industry. This is followed by barriers in promotion and leadership, a lack of awareness and visibility of job opportunities, a lack of skills and training support and work–life balance.

What are some of the challenges preventing equitable opportunities and rewarding careers for women in manufacturing?

Note: Number or respondents = 63.The sum of the percentages exceeds 100% because respondents could select more than one choice.

Source: Women in Manufacturing survey.

The digital transformation and gender diversity in manufacturing

The digital transformation and other recent trends have had mixed effects on gender diversity in the manufacturing landscape. Over the past two decades, the UK manufacturing sector has significantly changed the distribution of job roles within its workforce. Despite labour shortages in roles such as process, plant and machine operatives and skilled trades, which men mostly hold, these positions have seen a notable decrease in their share of manufacturing employment.

Administrative and secretarial occupations, which are mostly held by women, have also seen a decline in employment rates, and this trend is likely to continue in the coming years. In comparison, there has been a substantial expansion in the shares of professionals and associate professional and technical positions.

Changes in manufacturing occupations, 2004 and 2022 (total)

Source: Nomis. Annual Population Survey – Workplace analysis

Changes in the skills required by manufacturing businesses are creating opportunities for women to enter the industry. Skills such as data analysis, forward-thinking and innovation are becoming more relevant, and a growing number of women from different backgrounds have these skills. This positive trend is compounded by the interaction of the digital and the environmental sustainability transitions, which are making manufacturing more diverse.

From 2004 to 2022, there was an increase in gender diversity in several manufacturing jobs. These include professional roles, managers, directors and senior officials, associate professional and technical roles, and skilled trade occupations.

Changes in gender diversity IN manufacturing occupations, 2004 ̶ 2022

Source: Author, based on Nomis. Annual Population Survey – Workplace analysis. For detailed definitions of the nine occupational categories please refer to Appendix A of the policy brief..

The way forward: How can we improve gender diversity in UK manufacturing?

Drawing upon established practices to promote gender equality, 10 practical recommendations are provided in the policy brief for UK organisations to cultivate a more diverse and inclusive manufacturing sector.

Businesses, industry associations and research organisations could:

  1. Collect and analyse diversity data. According to the Make UK ED&I Survey 2021, 47% of manufacturers are not assessing the status of equality, diversity and inclusion.
  2. Promote an inclusive workplace culture through initiatives such as awareness-raising campaigns, diversity and inclusion training and networking opportunities.
  3. Address gender bias in recruitment and promotion by using inclusive language in job advertisements, promoting diverse interview panels and candidate pools, and promoting mentoring opportunities.
  4. Support work–life balance by providing flexible working arrangements, implementing return-to-work policies, promoting the uptake of paternity leave, and offering on- or near-site subsidised childcare, among other initiatives.
  5. Share and recognise examples of best practice by creating spaces for organisations to share their experiences and establishing awards to encourage outstanding practices.

Government organisations could:

  1. Follow a gender-transformative approach in government support programmes. This includes setting targets for reaching women-owned businesses through support programmes, including women’s business organisations in the design of dissemination campaigns, and conducting gender-sensitive evaluations.
  2. Support research on gender equality and gender-disaggregated data collection. We cannot address what we do not know. A critical gap exists in gender-, ethnic- and disability-disaggregated data, as well as in understanding gender differences in the adoption of digital technologies in manufacturing. Bridging this gap requires both allocating funding to expand survey samples and supporting new research.
  3. Incentivise gender equality in research and innovation teams by continuing efforts such as Innovate KTN’s guidelines for inclusive design and by including gender equality criteria in research and technology fund allocations.
  4. Adopt a lifelong learning approach in training and education programmes by creating opportunities for women to develop skills at different stages of their lives.
  5. Ensure an enabling environment for improving gender balance in caring responsibilities. This may involve cross-ministerial coordination and collaboration with industry associations to develop and enforce policies that support flexible working, paternity leave, returning to work, and child and adult social-care provision.

The policy brief provides examples of how various types of organisations are implementing initiatives in these areas. These include from a medium-sized business pioneering flexible working in manufacturing, to comprehensive equality and inclusion strategies in a multinational company, and gender-inclusive approaches in digital manufacturing support programmes.

Promoting gender equality not only upholds a fundamental human right but also serves as a catalyst for improved financial and environmental performance, making it imperative to prioritise the increased participation of women in the UK manufacturing sector. The potential economic benefits, as estimated by Make UK, underscore the vital role of gender diversity in closing skills gaps and driving economic growth, potentially adding £7 billion annually to the UK’s gross domestic product.

Finally, while the policy brief provides insights into the dynamics of gender diversity in UK manufacturing, shaped by digital transformation and other contemporary trends, there are still many unknowns that need to be addressed. For instance, we have little understanding of how digitalisation is changing manufacturing workplaces and the challenges women and men face in adapting to and benefiting from these transformations.

Despite increasing commitments to narrowing gender disparities, gender equality remains secondary in importance, particularly in industrial and technology domains. This oversight has resulted in underfunded research and analysis aimed at addressing gender gaps. To pave the way for a more inclusive, innovative, and equitable future in manufacturing, we must collectively tackle these outstanding issues.

Download the full policy brief:  

Download “Policy brief - The case for a gender-transformative digitalisation”

Women-in-Manufacturing-policy-brief.pdf – Downloaded 3039 times – 3.97 MB

This work was supported by the UKRI Made Smarter Innovation Challenge and the Economic and Social Research Council via InterAct [Grant Reference ES/W007231/1].

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Report Resources

Women in manufacturing: the case for a gender-transformative digitalisation

We are at a crossroads, with the opportunity either to progress towards a more equitable manufacturing landscape or to deepen existing gaps. The digitalisation of manufacturing provides a chance to transform the sector into a more inclusive and diverse one. However, if we do not take intentional and proactive steps, this digital transformation could instead reinforce prevailing norms and deepen gender inequalities.

The project ‘Women in digital manufacturing’ brought together academics and practitioners to raise awareness about the challenges that women face when participating in manufacturing, while highlighting the transformative potential of digital technologies in creating a more diverse and inclusive manufacturing sector.

This policy brief aims to inspire and inform gender-transformative initiatives that challenge unequal gender relations and discriminatory norms and practices within the manufacturing sector. It offers insights into the state of women’s and men’s participation in manufacturing, and through the narratives of accomplished professionals in the field, it unveils the barriers that women face to enter and advance in this sector. The policy brief offers practical recommendations for businesses, industry associations, and research and government organisations to promote gender diversity and inclusion within the UK manufacturing sector.

This research was conducted by Dr. Jennifer Castañeda-Navarrete, (IfM Engage, University of Cambridge). This work was supported by the UKRI Made Smarter Innovation Challenge and the Economic and Social Research Council via InterAct [Grant Reference ES/W007231/1].

For further discussions or potential collaborations, please contact Jennifer Castañeda–Navarrete.

Download “Policy brief - The case for a gender-transformative digitalisation”

Women-in-Manufacturing-policy-brief.pdf – Downloaded 3039 times – 3.97 MB
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InterAct Blog

Industrial metaverse for manufacturing systems: hype or future reality?

Our project aims to provide a coherent interdisciplinary summary of established knowledge from academia and practice on the application and potential benefits, barriers, and risks of a metaverse in manufacturing, mainly focusing on bridging technical and social insights.

Metaverse is expected to provide numerous benefits, particularly in production process optimisation, employee induction and collaboration. The most surprising research finding so far is just how varied the definitions of metaverse are. For our study, we define industrial metaverse as” a sensory environment that uses extended reality to blend the physical and digital worlds to transform how businesses design, manufacture and interact with objects”.

The existing industrial cases reveal technological barriers such as immaturity, lack of sufficiently strong communication networks and sustainability concerns. Other cases include cybersecurity risks like cyberattacks and data protection/privacy issues. The social barriers include jurisdictional and legislative difficulties, lack of cooperation between companies necessary to achieve interoperability and the need to change worker and user mindsets. 

Figure 1. Industrial metaverse as a new interface to the products’ manufacturing system

Although the data suggests immersion as a driving force of the metaverse[1], a full immersion can not be achieved without impacting the senses and feelings of a user. For example, in sensory marketing, similar impacts (experience stimuli) are used to trigger purchasing intention (Dewey, 1925; Schmitt, 1999), however, in the physical reality. Hence, we envision a similar trend in the digital world, where an industrial metaverse will extend the numeric and graphical data (such as reports) into coherent immersive experiences that will also affect feelings, Figure 2.

Figure 2. Industrial Metaverse as a combination of senses stimuli

Our conceptualisation efforts aim to prototype an industrial metaverse that activates several senses (sight, sound, temperature, and smell) and test how the extended experience triggers actions.

“Highly promising results are expected for the intersection of resilience and sustainability,” said Nikolai. “For example, based on the sensory marketing research that positions smell as the strongest attractor for purchasing decisions, we aim to virtualise the production conditions with sight, sound, temperature, and smell and enhance experience stimuli in the metaverse. We think it will better inform purchasing choice and support the demand pattern for clean energy, ethical production, and fewer emissions along supply chains.”

After the first results of the systematic literature review, we wish to explore the feasibility of the extended reality to shift decision-making towards more expensive but more sustainable decision-making along the manufacturing value chain[2]. Over the following months, our research aims to exemplify our concept using a scenario based on food manufacturing system for chocolate production. To do so, we will integrate the popular Augmented Reality platform with audio, temperature and smell generator devices to extend the experience for a policy-maker, manufacturer or customer making a hard choice between a cost-efficient vs. sustainable manufacturing system. This prototype will be used as a sensory dashboard for an extended representation of material sources, production conditions, carbon footprint and energy sources to better inform the stakeholder about the impacts of their decision.

“Carbon emission, working conditions, and energy consumption remain underexplored in the real world but visible in the metaverse. Hence, the metaverse can be used to raise awareness about manufacturing systems.”

Yet, It is unclear if being informed on carbon emissions in real-time will impact manufacturers’ use of their machines and shift the regulation imposed by policymakers. For example, would the smell of burning Amazon forests shift a consumer’s decision-making closer to more expensive sustainable purchase better than the printed carbon footprint number on the product package?

Figure 3. Industrial metaverse as a sensualisation of real-time data sharing   

The project has an open innovation philosophy, so we wish to create a discussion space around the metaverse application for manufacturing and are open to collaboration with the InterAct researchers and the industrial community.

To disseminate the findings, we plan to run a public event involving technology providers, industry, academia and stakeholders from the local public administration at the end of 2023.


References

Academic

Dewey, J. (1981). The later works, 1925-1953 (Vol. 3). SIU Press.

Schmitt, B. (1999). Experiential marketing. Journal of marketing management15(1-3), 53-67.

Petit, O., Velasco, C., Wang, Q. J., & Spence, C. (2022). Consumer consciousness in multisensory extended reality. Frontiers in psychology13.

Industrial

https://www.radiantvisionsystems.com/blog/creating-full-sensory-experiences-future-ar/vr/mr/xr

https://www.ericsson.com/en/6g/internet-of-senses

https://www.bitstamp.net/learn/web3/extended-reality-virtual-reality-augmented-reality-and-more/

https://www.designnews.com/augmented-reality/metaverse-will-engage-all-five-senses


[1]64% of industrial cases describe metaverse as a realistic user experience

[2] The team is considering to apply for further funding via the newly launched Impact Booster Competition of Made Smarter Innovation Challenge

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Report Resources Tool Video Webinar

Business model innovation and digital servitization in UK manufacturing small and medium sized enterprises

This project explores the application of digital servitization business models in the context of UK Manufacturing Small to Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs), by empirically depicting its antecedents and firm-level implications. Following the completion of a large empirical study, the key contextual and organisational factors that determine successful implementation of business models have been identified. The study’s key findings suggest that SMEs can achieve high performance through adoption of digital servitization business models, depending on how well each model aligns with the organisation’s context and design.  

To assist the UK Manufacturing community, in addition to the main report, the project’s deliverables are accessible to stakeholders through its dedicated microsite, SME toolkit, video training manual and practitioner webinar.

Download “Report - Business model innovation and digital servitization in UK manufacturing small and medium sized enterprises”

Business-Model-Innovation-and-Digital-Servitization.pdf – Downloaded 3942 times – 1.46 MB

Project microsite 

The microsite provides SMEs with a valuable resource that practitioners can engage with, to better understand digital servitization and its corresponding business models. Developed in an illustrative manner, the microsite provides a visual overview of the study’s data and key findings and constitutes the project’s primary means of impact on business practice. 

SME toolkit 

A key project output, the self-assessment toolkit aspires to assist SME principal decision-makers in diagnosing the contextual and organisational conditions of their business and determine the suitability of digital servitization business models. Toolkit users are invited to complete an anonymised questionnaire and in turn, they receive a recommendation of which business model might represent the best match to their current conditions. 

Video training manual 

The video training manual represents a step-by-step guide to the toolkit and provides users with the key terms of interest and the process of answering the toolkit questions.  

Online webinar 

As a primary dissemination activity, the project’s first ex-post webinar has been delivered in early August 2023 to raise awareness about the project, communicate the study’s findings and promote the publication of the main report and its accompanying intellectual outputs. 

This research was conducted by Dr. Dimitrios Dousios and Dr. Antonios Karatzas (University of East Anglia). This work was supported by the UKRI Made Smarter Innovation Challenge and the Economic and Social Research Council via InterAct [Grant Reference ES/W007231/1].

For further discussions or potential applications/collaborations, please contact Antonios Karatzas.

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News

InterAct Actionable Insights Fund – successful projects announced

Insights from history on the new industrial revolution

Principal Investigator:

Dr. Ahmad Beltagui – Aston University

Co-investigators:

Dr. Brian Sudlow – Aston University

Dr. Miying Yang – Cranfield University

Project Outline:

The aim of the project is to communicate actionable insights from social science research on technology adoption, by creating a repository of digital stories on historical industrial transitions. The project will expand the Insights from History series of animated digital stories that resulted from a systematic literature review.

The project will use historical precedents to identify actionable insights about the factors that matter for IDT adoption. It will focus on conveying these insights to SMEs in particular, drawing on strong institutional links with SMEs. Creating short, informative and accessible videos has the potential to communicate findings most clearly to SME leaders and contribute to the desired impacts on successful IDT adoption.

The valorisation of the PrOH Modelling Methodology for the human-centred digitization of the Rolls-Royce Aerospace plc extended enterprise

Principal Investigator:

Professor Ben Clegg – Aston University

Co-investigators:

Dr. Krishna Balthu – Aston University

Dr. Ehsan Eslamian – Aston University

Project Outline:

This project will build on capabilities in systems thinking and action research developed at Aston University – specifically the PrOH modelling methodology – to increase its impact outside academia. PrOH modelling is a systems thinking action research approach used to understand complex organisational issues, stimulate innovative thinking to improve organisational issues and implement effective solutions.

PrOH modelling is a form of soft systems methodology specifically designed to affect change in organisational strategy, people, culture, technology and operations through a human centred approach. To date the PrOH modelling methodology has had in-depth success led by experts in small volume. This InterAct project is focused on commercialising the PrOH Modelling Methodology for training, teaching and practice, to achieve a more widespread use.

AI with Impact: A guide for CEOs

Principal Investigator:

Dr. Viktor Dörfler – University of Strathclyde

Project Outline:

The project aims to help business leaders with getting AI implementations right, as an astonishingly high proportion of AI implementations (various sources put it between 50-80%) are either a failure or do not deliver the desired outcomes. Examining underlying reasons that are fundamentally human not technological, the project team hopes to correct unrealistic expectations towards AI resulting from the lack of understanding of what AI actually can and cannot deliver.

Project outputs will help improve AI implementation quality and thus increase investment in AI in the UK manufacturing sector. Dr. Dörfler seeks to assist manufacturing in learning from other sectors and vice versa through increased understanding of the variety of AI solutions. Helping smaller AI solution providers make suitable offers to large, established companies and indirectly help increase the international competitiveness of UK organisations.

Design and evaluation of a brochure outlining the toolkit for responsible and inclusive digital transformation

Principal Investigator:

Dr. Vladislav Grozev – University of Sheffield

Co-investigators:

Dr. Hui Zhang – University of Sheffield

Professor Carolyn Axtell – University of Sheffield

Professor Karina Nielsen – University of Sheffield

Project Outline:

The aim of this project is to produce an extensive brochure informing relevant stakeholders about the availability and purpose of a toolkit for responsible and inclusive digital transformation, including:

(1) A structured process for involving multidisciplinary teams across different departments and stakeholders at different levels of an organisation in responsible co-design

(2) Exercises for co-creating acceptable future scenarios for working with the digital change (including consideration of job design).

(3) A survey tool for measuring digital attitudes, and generating action plans to enhance trust and adoption of the change.

The toolkit contains guidelines for organisations in relation to the structured process (i.e., the five-stage process, principles of responsible design/stakeholder involvement, guidance on potential action plans) – as well as provide guidelines for how to use the specific tools (scenarios tool and digital attitudes tool). Overall, the toolkit will help organisations action the insights gained from research on responsible innovation and socio-technical change.

Disseminating insights regarding the management and governance of Open Innovation projects for IDT providers

Principal Investigator:

Dr. Andrei Gurca – Queens University Belfast

Co-investigator:

Dr. Kate Broadhurst – Loughborough University

Project Outline:

As the complexity of IDT development projects increases and numerous, highly interdependent elements, components and subsystems interact to deliver functionality, many firms lack the knowledge and capabilities to complete their projects independently. Therefore, firms are increasingly engaging in purposeful, collaborative efforts with different business partners (i.e., open innovation) at various stages of their complex projects. The benefits of opening up to business partners include access to valuable external resources, risk sharing, reduced costs, and improved time-to-market.

The project aims to engage business leaders and representative bodies and organisations like the Chamber of Commerce, Local Enterprise Partnerships in the creation of their actionable insights through a series of workshops targeted at demystifying the processes of open innovation for businesses and policymakers. Further materials will be made available via the InterAct resource repository and at additional events in 2024.

FASHTRAX: Knowledge Exchange Platform

Principal Investigator:

Dr. Hilde Heim – Manchester Fashion Institute, Manchester Metropolitan University

Co-investigator:

Julie Hodson – Manchester Fashion Institute, Manchester Metropolitan University

Project Outline:

Researchers from the Manchester Fashion Institute’s Textiles Transparency Team (MFITT) are seeking to create an online knowledge exchange platform called FASHTRAX. The platform aims to be an industry facing, fashion transparency innovation exchange site for the dissemination of Manchester Fashion Institute’s research and innovations in the field of digitalising supply chain transparency.

The project is responding to findings that garment manufacturers are seeking guidance on how to adopt and integrate digital technologies in a non-disruptive way into their existing operations. The current fundamental lack of transparency and visibility throughout the various stages of the supply chain is one of the most significant barriers preventing organisations from implementing more sustainable, accountable practices.

The FASHTRAX knowledge exchange platform will signpost several emerging technology providers, such as those offering blockchain, AI, and sensors – that digitalise the supply chain’s key processes in addition to research on implementation to help organisations achieve these aims.

An interactive online tool for prioritising verification, validation and testing activities to support human decision-making

Principal Investigator:

Dr. Khadija Tahera – The Open University

Project Outline:

The development of new digital technology needs extensive verification, validation and testing (VV&T). An effective way of analysing the requirements of different stakeholders, i.e., the customer’s voice, regulations and business’s voice and how these requirements must be considered in the VV&T planning for new technology, is significantly challenging.

This project aims to develop a systematic method of analysing critical requirements and influences on the VV&T activity for new technology development and manufacturing, which will support the adoption of digital technologies and facilitate collaboration between SMEs and larger companies.

Dr. Tahera will be developing a tool designed to help manufacturers and SMEs map customer and regulatory requirements to technical requirements and VV&T activities, and prioritise VV&T activities based on risk and importance. The tool will provide actionable insights that will help manufacturers make informed decisions about testing, potentially saving time and costs in VV&T planning and decision-making.

Using the Reflective Goal Setting Model to accelerate the adoption of digital technologies by enhancing digital readiness in UK manufacturing

Principal Investigator:

Dr. Cheryl Travers – Loughborough University

Co-investigators:

Dr. Elaine Conway – Loughborough University

Sandra Huskinson – Coventry University

Project Outline:

Leaders’ personal and interpersonal skills and the ability to set goals are increasingly in demand due to the impact they can have on organisational success and employee performance, motivation, and wellbeing. The manufacturing sector is no exception. However, development of these skills often falls far short of expectations, with poor transfer of learning post-training. Traditional goal setting approaches have limited effectiveness in the development and utilisation of ‘softer’ yet crucial leadership and management interpersonal skills

The key purpose of this project is to take the established and evidence-based model of Reflective Goal Setting (RGS) and to develop actionable insights in the form of a toolkit, an animated video, and a discovery phase blueprint for an RGS app – specifically to facilitate the successful adoption of, and adaptation to, digital technologies. The project will explore the potential barriers to adoption that may result from a potential lack of suitable and relevant skills, lack of and/or prior experience, limiting mindsets, worry and anxiety, and unsuitable behaviours.

Enabling Digital Transformation for SMEs: an Industry 4.0 Open Innovation Platform

Principal Investigator:

Professor Beverly Wagner – University of Strathclyde

Co-investigator:

Dr. Natalie McDougall – University of Strathclyde

Project Outline:

The unprecedented changes of increasing digitalisation in parallel with the challenges organisations face in adoption and implementation of Industry 4.0 are the driving forces behind this project. There is a need to enable collaboration and co-creation to drive digital transformation.

New requirements related to customer experience and needs alongside value and efficiency improvements necessitate digital transformation. This can be enabled via adoption and implementation of Industry 4.0 technologies, such as big data analytics, blockchain, Internet of Things, intelligent products, sensors, robotics, adaptive manufacturing, and many others. However, whilst this is becoming an imperative for organisations, SMEs may be hindered by a lack of resources and capabilities.

The project team will develop a platform using virtual collaborative sharing tools, which will be accessible via an Open Innovation webpage. Key insights taken from the longitudinal study of Open Innovation adoption and Knowledge Transfer Partnership on Open Innovation practices will shape an interactive toolkit comprising the following:

  • A best practice guide to aid the business community select an appropriate open innovation business model and understand the process and requirements at each level for ideation through to commercialisation.
  • Case studies presented by key stakeholder organisations that detail factors that influence open innovation implementation and technological uptake.
  • Methodologies of Industry 4.0 adoption from keynote industry speakers.
  • Collaborative tools, activities, and co-creation spaces to support the development of relevant capabilities adoption and implementation of Industry 4.0 technologies.
Categories
InterAct Blog

How co-working spaces can boost local economies

The routine of commuting five days a week to and from an employer’s office now seems somewhat old fashioned. Flexible and remote working have become much more common – and popular.

One global survey found that 68% of employees prefer flexible working. In the US, when given the option of remote work, 87% of employees take up the offer. It has also been estimated that up to 25% of workers in some of the world’s largest economies could work remotely for three to five days a week without any loss in productivity.

Improvements in digital technology and better broadband connections have made this drastic change possible. COVID then sped up the whole process, with remote working becoming a necessity for many.

Traditionally – and during COVID lockdowns – remote working meant working from home. But research suggests that much of the recent uptake in remote work is occurring in “co-working spaces”, where people from different professions and organisations work side by side.

These spaces provide flexible access to shared workspaces, with a range of facilities such as decent coffee, good wifi, digital printing and postal services. They range from basic to funky in design, some with natural features or social spaces equipped with table tennis and pool tables, boxing bags and PlayStations. Dogs and other pets are often welcome.

Since they first emerged in the US in 2005, co-working spaces have seen significant growth in both urban and rural locations. They have also been set up in tourist hot spots, catering for workers who wish to combine their jobs with travel on “workcations”, while others are designed for specific groups such as female entrepreneurs.

Some are run by large global companies while others are set up by local independent providers. But they are all designed for workers in search of a flexible approach, a decent location and an appealing working environment.

Part of this appeal comes from the social interaction they provide, reducing the isolation of working from home. They may also be located more conveniently than traditional places of work, reducing commute times and helping parents manage childcare commitments.

Commercial collaboration

The main feature of a co-working space is that the people who use it come from different backgrounds and are not employed by a single company. Such a diverse community can open up new opportunities for collaboration and the exchange of ideas – and even the potential for new commercial partnerships.

Indeed, some research suggests that co-working spaces are similar to “industrial clusters”, where groups of businesses in similar sectors are concentrated in a particular location, such as the Square Mile in London, or the area near Silverstone in England nicknamed Motorsport Valley.

Co-working spaces can be good for employers too, broadening their geographical reach. They may be cheaper than traditional office space, and provide a flexible option to scale up or down depending on economic circumstances.

And while most co-working spaces are designed for desk workers, there are an increasing number of manufacturing and engineering companies getting involved. Spaces which provide access to things like CAD software, 3D printers and lathes are particularly useful for small design or artisan businesses.

A role for policy?

This ease of access to tools and technology can encourage start-ups, or promote the re-emergence of small scale manufacturing in “left behind” places. In the US, for example, there has been a political push to promote co-working spaces as seedbeds of entrepreneurship.

In Italy, a similar policy in Rome has received the same kind of encouragement, while Ireland’s government announced plans for investment in 400 co-working hubs in rural areas to create a national network of facilities.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) has also expressed interest in the potential of co-working spaces to boost regional development.

But so far in the UK the role of co-working spaces has largely been absent from any political party’s vision for developing regional economies. Instead, it seems to have been largely left to local authorities and businesses to take the lead.

In Stoke-on-Trent, for example, a new co-working space development has been launched in a partnership between the local government and private sector investment. Elsewhere, Devon County Council coordinates its own network of co-working hubs.

They have understood that the move towards more flexible working is surely here to stay. For many, it provides a sense of freedom and independence in their working lives.

Overall though there seems to be a lack of strategic thinking from the national government on the funding and location of co-working spaces. In tough economic conditions, this may turn out to be a significant missed opportunity.


Mariachiara Barzotto, Senior Lecturer in Management Strategy and Organisation, University of Bath; Felicia Fai, Associate professor in International Business and Innovation, University of Bath, and Phil Tomlinson, Professor of Industrial Strategy, Co-Director Centre for Governance, Regulation and Industrial Strategy (CGR&IS), University of Bath.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.