The UK manufacturing sector is an essential contributor to the country’s economy generating £206bn gross valued added in 2022 a fifth higher than a decade ago. It accounts for around half our exports, two thirds of spending on research and development and accounts for a significant level of business investment. The sector employs around 2.6m highly skilled people across the UK, many of them in areas that need levelling up. In short manufacturing matters to the prosperity and security of the UK.
The sector is now at a critical juncture. Ten years ago Make UK (then EEF) set out its case for an industrial strategy. Since then we have had six plans for growth but now find ourselves without one.
There is broad agreement among stakeholders about what the UK needs for a successful industrial strategy. These can be broadly categorised into five themes, skills; infrastructure; finance; innovation and the business environment. To these can now be added significant shifts in the policy landscape from the post Brexit and pandemic landscape, the transition to net zero, rapidly accelerating technologies spinning out from the fourth industrial revolution and the political imperative to spread growth more evenly across the UK.
Has the impact of the global pandemic and spiralling household living costs changed what people in the UK value in jobs? If so, what factors are important for people looking at jobs in 2023 and what are the implications of this for UK manufacturers?
As part of the recent InterAct Making Things Work Survey , we asked people what things they would look for in a new job. We found that the top five reasons are an interesting mix of the usual economic and non-economic (i.e. the quality of work settings) suspects. Our top 5 job choice factors are: pay and benefits; well-being and flexibility; clean and safe work settings; contractual security and stability; and having an employer who listens and values people’s opinions (voice).
The prominence of these five job quality factors is probably not surprising. Apart from the legion of Health & Safety sceptics on social media, what manufacturing workforce wouldn’t prioritize a safe and clean working environment? What is surprising is that both pay and wellbeing are rated equally highly by our sample because in survey questions of this type, pay is usually out on its own as the main reason for job choice. This makes perfect sense for those of us who don’t live to work, or who aren’t strongly morally and vocationally wedded to our labour or employer. The importance of pay and reward and these other job quality factors should never be understated: especially in competitive labour markets with shortages of people and skills.
All of these top five factors play very nicely into wider debates about job quality and what we mean by ‘good jobs’. For manufacturers, understanding what people value in jobs and tailoring the recruitment messaging towards this should keep you up and running with the talent war pack. Good jobs are essential for successful recruitment and retention. As every decent manufacturing employer knows, if people’s working needs are being supported, the better the chances are that you’ll get the talent you need for the business, be more able to keep your ‘key’ people and get performance and productivity benefits over the longer term: ‘happy people, happy customers, better productivity.
In our sample, there wasn’t too much statistical distance between the top five factors. The relative prominence of wellbeing is interesting. Although wellbeing always been a central topic in conversations about job quality, the pandemic shone a unique spotlight on health at work. Wellbeing issues have come a long way from the days when it was mainly about masking or softly managing people’s problems, or just tackled by asking people to try whistling a happy tune.
Part of our new normal seems to be having a reset on long hours culture and achieving more work-life balance. The pandemic also showed us that discussing different ways of working was not only possible but operationally practical (especially non-production staff) in manufacturing businesses, though this remains a work in progress for production staff. Take a brief look across many manufacturers’ websites today and you’ll see that most companies do explain how they support people’s wellbeing.
We know about job quality, but what are people’s perceptions about what manufacturing jobs offer? We are only at a very early stage of survey analysis and getting under the skin of the topline figures, however we can examine pay as an example.
Unfortunately, for UK manufacturers, the great British public are telling a familiar tale. The good news is that most people think that manufacturing jobs offer comparable levels of pay and benefits to those in other industries. The less great news, however, is that there are just as many who are sceptical or unsure about relative pay rates in the sector.
These figures look consistent with what we know from the past about public perceptions of manufacturing jobs in the UK and the US: that while the sector objectively pays people comparable or higher than average levels of pay, this reality doesn’t carry through into public opinion . In other words, there still seems to be a reasonable gap between what most people would want in a job and what most people think is on offer in manufacturing. This latter point also seems to hold true across all of the top five job quality factors that we outlined at the start.
Therefore, an early message from our survey may be that many people are largely uncertain about the quality manufacturers are offering in terms of jobs: a persistent perception that will influence the attractiveness of jobs in the sector. Going forward it may require more focused attention from employers, industry shakers and policy makers if they want to remake the image of jobs in the sector.
The UK was at the heart of the first industrial revolution. Powered by coal, the UK was able to move from craft to mass production, creating new jobs, increased wages, and improved standards of living. Consumption driven economic growth was fuelled by huge increases in productivity. Key to the UK’s success, was its global access to raw materials, its local access to energy (coal), and innovation to develop the technology to enable the shift to mass production.
Little thought was given to the broader environmental and social considerations, with cities engulfed in smog, and children working in factories. Over time, these issues were addressed but the long-term impact is only beginning to be fully realised.
We are now in the era of Industry 4.0, or the 4th industrial revolution. Initially a name for the German Government’s strategy, to reinvigorate German manufacturing post-2008 global economic crisis, the term has gained widespread popular appeal. At its core was the adoption of digital technologies to create the Internet of Things (IoT). Over the last decade, with increased awareness of the environmental and societal impacts of consumption driven economic growth, it signifies a more fundamental shift.
There is increasing recognition of the need to decarbonise the manufacturing ecosystem if the UK is to meet its Net Zero 2050 goals. This is driving the adoption of low carbon energy sources, and more resource efficient methods of production. It is also creating a more fundamental change. United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12, identifies the need for more responsible consumption and production. The need to consider new models for economic and business development that decouple consumption from production. Business models have traditionally been built on ‘linear economy’ models where raw materials are mined, converted into components, assembled into products, that are used, and sent for recycling, energy recovery and land fill at end of life. As consumers have valued newness over utility, and manufacturers have sought to make products as cheaply as possible, the ability to reuse, repair and remanufacture products has become more difficult. The future manufacturing ecosystem is built on the principles of a ‘circular economy’. An economy where we seek to keep products in their highest possible value state, through reuse, repair and remanufacture. A future where recycling is a last resort. Digital technologies enable the more effective monitoring of the physical location of assets, their condition and usage. They can also enable digital payment, and technical support.
Innovation is key to supporting the transition to a more circular economy. It starts with the innovation required to develop the new digital technologies to enable the transition. Innovation may be more transformational and involve the development of new business models. HP Instant Ink is a great example of how IoT technology in home printers enables the provision of home printing as a service. For a fixed rate, subscribers can print an agreed number of pages per month with a guarantee that they will never run out of ink. The ink levels are remotely monitored, and new cartridges sent in the post when required. Used cartridges are returned to be refilled and reused. These new business models are often run in parallel with existing business models (e.g., traditional purchase of ink cartridges) that may use innovation to improve the productivity and sustainability of existing manufacturing processes or supply chains.
At the heart of the UK manufacturing ecosystem, the Midlands can lead the UK in creating the first regional manufacturing ecosystem, that is low carbon and supports the principles of the circular economy. Using innovation to create new business models, products, services, and technologies that enable economic prosperity in a responsible and sustainable way. Through the Made Smarter Innovation (MSI) funded Interact Project, Loughborough University are working with key stakeholders in the region to develop a 2040 Future Digital Manufacturing Ecosystem roadmap for the Midlands. Be part of the change, reach out and start to Interact.
Forget some of the negative media hype and concern that you sometimes see from some social commentators and employers about Generation Z (Gen Z). Unlike us Boomers, Generation X and Millennials, Gen Z are the first truly ‘native’ digital generation, more tech savvy, nurtured on constant access to new technologies and more likely to be comfortable in the newly emerging worlds of digital manufacturing
The high digital literacy of Gen Z offers many benefits for advanced manufacturers. They are more multi-skilled and able to execute (simultaneous) work tasks and roles across different digital platforms, while being more readily plugged into virtual and augmented realities. As a workforce, they will be great for advanced manufacturing in the years to come; very likely to tell you that your technology and IT might not be as cutting edge (or confusing) as you thought. If this is not enough, given the right in-work supports – from ‘onboarding’ and beyond – they will allow manufacturers to create better value from problem solving, innovation, and creative roles using their digital toolboxes.
In many ways, the entry of Gen Z to the labour market is ideal for advanced manufacturers adopting new technologies, and their great potential to further change workplace people practices and business models. However, as in all happy(ish) marriages between the needs of employers and younger people’s lifestyle interests and skills, both partners may have some underlying issues that will make an effective relationship based on new technologies difficult to sustain unless they both work at it.
There should be no doubts about the high demand for digital skills in advanced manufacturing. Employers need to understand some key elements of Gen Z thinking and to build this into their recruitment and retention strategies. Ongoing staffing shortages, the seemingly blurring pace of digital and technological change, ‘quiet quitting’ and some issues with workplace upskilling have all helped to accelerate industry demand for digital and multi skilled workforces.
These changes have pitched advanced manufacturers into the ‘talent war’ to attract, retain and develop the most skilled and capable young people. Attracting and keeping the best talent, however, is highly competitive and many industries (including manufacturing) are reporting skill shortages and high levels of unfilled vacancies. Very simply, manufacturers without the right set of people capacities (and practices to support these), digital skillsets, and multi-skilled workforces will struggle to capture and use those advanced technologies to help them compete and innovate.
These labour demand and supply issues pose some interesting questions about how UK manufacturers should be competing for Gen Z talent in terms of job quality. A downside? Well like Millennials they are very values driven and possibly sensitive to your image as an employer on social media. Image matters for the new generation. For advanced manufacturers, one major challenge is the problem with some of the wider UK manufacturing sector. This comes with some powerful historical baggage.
Manufacturing is sometimes be seen by young people in the UK and US as an old-fashioned industry, low paying and male-dominated, offering large numbers of dull, insecure, and dead-end shifts in factory jobs. Forget those images you may have in your head about the emerging SMART factories of the near future, this legacy persists, particularly among the older population segments who remember it and whose opinions may negatively shape their children and grandchildren looking for jobs and careers in today’s labour market. They are not flattering perceptions of a sector looking to recruit ambitious and creative digital talent or even broaden its appeal among older or mid-career workers, or people in under-represented groups such as women and minorities.
On a positive note, these perceptions are very unlikely to match the reality of many or most modern advanced manufacturing settings, particularly in big multinational companies and those who‘ve adopted and transitioned into digital technology. These settings offer (less monotonous) more interesting, exciting, highly technical and financially rewarding work. The recruitment messaging needs to dispel the old legacy of your sector, show the augmented reality, the AI of the bots, the predictive and the multi-purpose data analytics, and whatever metaverse you can conjure.
Apart from showcasing exciting, innovative clean tech, what else should manufacturers be doing to better attract and retain Gen Z talent? There is no shortage of commentary on what Gen Z expect in the workplace, so let’s take three of the more important issues that often feature in wider discussions about them: values, diversity, and flexibility. Helpfully, all of these things connect with each other.
We know that an employer’s image, brand, reputation, prestige, mission, vision and values really matter in recruitment, commitment and retention. Its’ not just about pay, it really isn’t. Values make a big difference in competitive labour markets with restrictions on supply. Potential recruits and employee’s want to know something about your identity and values: how these resonate through your products, people practices, and culture.
Ideally, younger employees want to share in the positive impact and success of your business, be ‘proud’ to work for you and share that in their social media networking and posts. This means that the backstory (and the ‘future-story’) of who you are as an industry, sector and employer is a key part of attracting and keeping the brightest, the capable and the digitally skilled. You can be as sceptical (or ‘boomer’) about this as you like but realising the importance of the ‘image’ and what you stand for, and how you show and tell people your story is something that. For example, big UK-based multinational manufacturers who compete across international markets understand very well. It works.
Your values should set the tone for a whole series of complimentary policies and practices at work that help young people see meaning and purpose in their work. For advanced manufacturers, investing in people, developing their skills and caring about their wellbeing play very well to younger and early career audiences who will still be unsure about their place in the labour market.
A focus on Net Zero and the principles of the circular economy has a strong appeal to the wider social values of many young people keen on environmental messaging and actions around reducing waste and your carbon footprint. Employer values tell people what you care about: whether you look at your workforce as individuals and people; whether you care about their wellbeing and development; and whether you really are asking them to help make ‘useful’ products and have processes that are helping to make a more sustainable world.
Employer values and practices also feed into areas like diversity and being clear about your recruitment messaging. Why is diversity important? Well it isn’t about the numbers of women in your workplace, or those coming through the STEM pipeline. Research shows that gender diversity in manufacturing leads to greater innovation and profitability, and the benefits of having women in leadership positions are even greater. In other words, the implications of diversity (and more representative workforces) seem to be reasonably clear. The more diverse you are as a workforce and the more this is represented in the higher strategic decision making levels of companies, the more you will be likely to be able to harness these different views and experiences, produce better products more geared to different customer segments and better innovate than your competitors.
You can disagree about the need for diversity but the figures tell a different story. Manufacturers need to be much more proactive (and transparent) about equalities, diversity and inclusion at work, particularly when it comes to gaining ‘fair opportunities’ for career progression. Gen Z are more racially and ethnically diverse than previous UK cohorts and there has to be a bigger focus on minorities, and on women.
Only around two-thirds of manufacturing firms currently have an EDI strategy or even an intention to develop one and not surprisingly, minorities only make up 5% of boards and women only 18%. Both groups still largely occupy supporting administrative and clerical roles, or in HR and marketing: far removed from key areas of senior management, making executive decisions and having a strategic influence in their firms. On these figures alone, you would be doing well to describe manufacturing as offering modern, equitable and progressive working environments. For Gen Z talent looking for employers who mirror their personal and social values around racial, ethnic and gender equality, these numbers will make depressing reading.
So how do you address this? At the very least, sense-check or independently audit the recruitment messaging to make sure you are maximising your appeal. In terms of the career progression of women and minorities there are also a few useful ways of addressing some of the internal cultural barriers that they face in moving into senior management roles: mentoring and sponsoring. To some these approaches are probably not as ‘bombproof’ as deciding promotions out with the lads on the golf course, but they are likely to be more effective in helping the business keep good talent.
One popular (post-pandemic) way of addressing the diversity issue concerns giving people greater flexibility at work, through re-designed shift schedules and working from home. Easier said than done for production staff than their non-production co-workers. There are certainly strong hints in the literature that greater flexibility and hybrid working (with some task autonomy) is very well suited to Gen Z workers. Perhaps too suited! Hybrid models bring positive wellbeing benefits for workers, allowing women to balance work and domestic schedules. However, we need to be cautious about visibility at work and that out-of-sight working from home does not translate into out-of-contention workers when it comes to promotions and rewards.
In short, there are sound reasons for believing that Gen Z will be ready-made for advanced manufacturing. To capture the benefits, advanced manufacturers need to understand this audience. They must ensure messaging, imagery and marketing addresses some of the more unhelpful legacy images of their sector, treat their own values and story seriously, and deliver on EDI and flexibility.
In February 2023, the InterAct team based in the Business School at Strathclyde University conducted an online survey asking the opinions of a representative sample of 2100 people across the UK what they think about the attractiveness of modern manufacturing jobs and careers. Their survey is topical and timely, offering academics, policy makers, trade bodies, industry commentators and employers a fresh and stimulating in-depth insight into public opinion about working in this sector at the present time and in the future.
They are primarily interested in what factors shape people’s views on UK manufacturing but we know very little about how people of different gender, ages and ethnicities look at the sector and as a potential career destination of ‘choice’. We know that manufacturing may be associated with some older perceptions of repetitive and insecure job but Industry 4.0 (advanced digital manufacturing) potentially changes future jobs and careers in the sector with a bigger emphasis on having people with innovation, problem-solving, creative and digital skills. To achieve this (and competing against other industries), advanced manufacturers will have to broaden the appeal of the sector to younger or mid-career workers, and people in under-represented groups such as women and minorities.
They asked the UK public questions on some key issues and big debates: the importance of the manufacturing sector for the wider UK economy; the ‘quality’ of manufacturing jobs; and about what work may look like in the years ahead. Will some manufacturers have to give more thought to how they invest in people and support worker engagement, wellbeing and skills? Will new advanced digital manufacturing technologies offer more interesting and rewarding jobs and careers? Alternatively, will more technologies, robotics and AI just generate concerns about jobs, downskilling and security?
These are all key questions that will resonate with a range of audiences. Our survey will stimulate debate, not just about what people think of UK manufacturing today and what factors help shape their interest, uncertainty or antipathy, but what may lie ahead when the emerging worlds of SMART factories, co-bots and augmented reality are drawing ever closer to our workspaces.
The team is looking to stimulate some further debate on the Future of Work in manufacturing. They welcome comment and opinion from a range of industry stakeholders: academics, policy makers, employers and trade unions.
The Storytelling Fellowship programme is a core element of the InterAct Network. It aims to harness the power of stories to learn from, and address, the human aspects of the diffusion of new technologies in industry. These human aspects include themes such as:
In 2022 we launched our biggest funding call yet, offering a total of £400,000 of research funding to split among proposals from the InterAct community.
We were delighted with the response we received, competition was very strong and many teams submitted excellent project proposals. Unfortunately, though we wish we could fund all of them, we could only resource some of these. The nine proposals we elected to finance are:
Battery Passports: Readiness of the UK Battery Manufacturing Sector, Ecosystem Opportunities & Implications for UK Industrial Policy
Melanie King – Loughborough University
Paul Timms – Loughborough University
“We both come from a Systems Engineering background and we wanted to look at a pressing issue in the form of battery manufacture from a broader ecosystem standpoint.
“A major element of the push for a net-zero world is the adoption of sustainable energy solutions, particularly for things like electric vehicles. Battery technology is a key component of this and it needs to be done right, such that the development of early solutions doesn’t preclude future opportunities and capabilities.
“We want to find out how ready UK manufacturers are to adopt product passport systems and technology into their business models. As a major trading partner, it is important businesses are aware of, and able to achieve standardisation with EU requirements to ensure they can continue to export products.
“Digital product passports are a really interesting technology that can provide increased efficiency, new business models and servitisation opportunities. They enable proactive maintenance, improved customer service and the possibility of greater circularity in business models which offers us exciting ways to achieve impact.”
The potential of coworking spaces to contribute to geographically distributed manufacturing activity and regional levelling up in the UK
Felicia Fai – University of Bath
Mariachiara Barzotto – University of Bath
Phil Tomlinson – University of Bath
“This project came about as a result of our team’s shared interest in regional development and particularly the levelling up agenda within the UK.
“The development of co-working spaces was already underway before the onset of Covid, but the impact of the pandemic on remote working practices has accelerated this shift. There has been recognition that co-working spaces offer some separation between home and work for those practicing remote work and offer opportunities for social connection and networking. We wanted to further explore this trend, especially light of their growth in suburban areas as people moved out of cities in response to the pandemic.
“Traditionally remote working has been seen by many in the manufacturing sector as impractical given the requirements of physical production, but there are many back office, support, and engineering functions that could be facilitated through co-working spaces. We also plan to examine the impact of ‘maker spaces’ which offer flexible use machinery suitable for early stage testing, fabrication and training to allow more agile manufacturing.”
Exploring remanufacturing practices and business models in the Aerospace Industry: insights from SMEs
Michael Rogerson – University of Surrey
Rachael Lamb – University of Nottingham
Eun Sun Godwin – University of Wolverhampton
“Our project will be examining the circularity of SMEs’ business models in the UK aerospace industry, specifically targeted towards remanufacturing. In practical terms this means examining the actual processes involved in supply chains and factories, the processes involved in reclaiming materials and recreating new products from existing products. Sometimes this means transitioning them into fuel or melting them down for component elements.
“Net-zero targets play a part in this, but the regulatory obligations aren’t pushing these practices as yet. What we want to get across is that business involvement needs to be ahead of likely requirements as a strategic imperative.
“The impact of aerospace industries on climate is a conversation that’s already prominent in the public domain. There is a temptation to see these corporations as distinct from the general public, but they are made up of people who are part of the general public and will likely share these sentiments. We hope that we can highlight the competitive advantage to businesses that being a leader here can offer.”
EVBatteries4Planet – Developing smart capabilities for sustainable and ethical EV battery supply chains
Luciano Batista – Aston University
Jun Du – Aston University
Oleksandr Shepotylo – Aston University
Nestor Lopez – KPMG
“There are several problems with producing the rare metals for electric vehicle (EV) batteries. Most notably, there is a growing difference in supply and demand levels, as demand rapidly increases, with car manufacturers racing to adhere to emissions regulations. There are also concerns around serious political instability in some major rare metal producing countries and the environmental impacts of large scale mining operations. This is causing a practical and ethical bottleneck in the production process.
“We want to look at the provenance of resources in use and find ways to encourage recycling and reuse of materials to achieve a sustainable supply chain.
“We want to see how digital technologies like blockchain can be used to help address the problems by creating visibility in global supply chains.”
Industrial digital technologies for UK SME exporting manufacturers
Hanh Pham – University of Leeds
Chee Yew Wong – University of Leeds
Richard Hodgett – University of Leeds
Neil Harriman – Oxford Innovation
David McKee – Slingshot Simulations
“We are delighted to have received this award from InterAct to undertake this project investigating ‘Industrial digital technologies for UK SME exporting manufacturers’. We are aiming to develop a decision-making model for manufacturers’ adoption and utilisation of industrial digital technologies to enhance competitiveness in international markets both as a conceptual model and through web-based applications.
“We anticipate industrial digital technologies will be a game changer in global production networks in the next two decades and UK SME export manufacturers need to prepare to be ahead of the game.
“We hope the outcomes will be used by manufacturers, especially SMEs, as well as digital solution providers, UK policymakers and support agencies to enable an effective transition to the next stage of industrial development.”
Empirical investigation of the role of pairing industrial digital technologies and resource efficiency towards net zero
Taofeeq Ibn-Mohammed – WMG, The University of Warwick
“Our proposal is about investigating the challenges and barriers to adopting and implementing digital technologies to facilitate resource and energy efficiency.
“A lot of previous work has focused on how technology can drive supply and demand side efficiencies. Instead, we want to find out what barriers industry is facing and how these can be mitigated to improve technology uptake. We’re planning to interview key stakeholders from the sector to see if their thoughts mesh with our own findings and get practical, hands-on insight.
“We want to analyse the interconnected nature of these challenges to determine which are the most critical, and if certain key challenge resolutions will have a wider, cascading success across supply chains. This means looking across the board at manufacturing sub-sectors to see if the challenges faced by individual producers are generally applicable to different businesses.”
RESTRAIN: Socio-cultuRal bEhaviour of end-uSers To specific cybeR-threAts In maNufacturing
Muttukrishnan Rajarajan – City University of London
Rajkumar Roy – City University of London
Katy Tapper – City University of London
Paul Hide – Amdea
Jim Fairbairn – Megger Ltd.
“Cybersecurity in the manufacturing environment is a growing area of interest and concern. With the increased adoption of digital technologies, manufacturing is becoming a major target for cyber attacks. One of the biggest vulnerabilities in this regard is human behaviour and attitudes towards cybersecurity.
“Since the pandemic, manufacturing has gone through a huge digital change which has opened up new avenues of attack. What we want to know is, how do we manage behavioural change to ensure cybersecurity improvements and use psychological models to plan new ways to adapt to these changes.
“We will be working with the cyber-resilience centres across the country to establish how the findings of this research can impact the wider manufacturing sector across the UK.”
Standardization and new technology adoption in the housing supply chain: Lessons from the 1930s
Christopher Spencer – Loughborough University
Paul Temple – Consultant (University of Surrey)
“Our contribution to InterAct lies in exploring how Britain’s historical experience of technical standards adoption in the 1930s – particularly those associated with new and emerging technologies – has important lessons for the current and future adoption of industrial digital technologies (IDT).
“We will evaluate the strategic role of the British Standards Institution (BSI) on the housing supply chain during the 1930s. This exploration will be contrasted with the situation today, where the housing supply chain is complex, and for which there is a clear need for increased forward-looking planning and coordination regarding the increasing adoption of IDT and associated IDT standards.
“The project will result in a significant amount of new knowledge in academic, industry and policymaking circles that is relevant to IDT adoption, based on significant historical evidence and contextualisation.”
Business Model Innovation and Digital Servitization in UK Manufacturing Small and Medium Sized Enterprises.
Dimitrios Dousios – University of East Anglia
Antonios Karatzas – University of East Anglia
“Servitization is the provision of products and services in an integrated bundle that can create and sustain value. One issue is that almost all the of existing research in this area has been focused on large firms, with very little focus on SMEs. Meta analysis and systematic reviews have confirmed there is a gap in research done to date.
“Why is this important? SMEs are facing an increasingly competitive, unstable environment with major negative impacts spilling out from energy crises, conflict, and the pandemic. We’re offering our assistance and research insights to help them become more stable and complete by adding service elements to their package offering.
“We’re looking to create infographics, video tutorials, and a roadmap for SMEs to understand their competitive position and to learn how they can use these advanced business models from larger firms to improve competitiveness.
“99.3% of manufacturing firms in the UK are SME’s, but at the moment we don’t understand the boundary conditions that can vary wildly between firms in different stages of their development. By introducing a servitization toolkit, we are providing a hands-on kit of actionable insights that can set them on the road to improvement.”
Designed as a way to facilitate the transformation of human insights gleaned from existing research into outputs providing actionable business intelligence to industry and policymakers, this call offers applicants up to £18,000 of funding to enable this.
Discussing the funding call, InterAct Co-director Professor Janet Godsell said: “We know there is lots of excellent research out there examining the sorts of themes we’re looking at with InterAct. What we want to achieve with this funding opportunity is to spark the creativity of researchers who have carried out this work and provide them with the resources to turn their valuable insights into the kinds of formats that are going to best resonate with those groups that can make use of them.
We want to give people some creative freedom with this, for example researchers may wish to develop reports, videos, apps or website content to name a few ideas. We’re excited to engage with the wider academic community and see what proposals they come up with.”
Opening on Tuesday 24th January 2023, the call will be accepting applications until Friday 21st April 2023.
As we embark on the next stage of our industrial evolution, digitalisation will shape the future of our economy, manufacturing ecosystem, and workplace. Digital technologies can enable us to create the future we want and move beyond consumption driven economic growth.
Our challenge is to create a future digital manufacturing ecosystem that meets our net-zero ambitions, whilst being resilient and productive. Thus, ensuring that everyone has the things that they need, at a price that they can afford, without damaging the environment or society.
To create the future digital manufacturing ecosystem we want, we need to work together. In order to combine our expertise from the broadest range of perspectives around this common goal, we need to InterAct.
Find out more about the outcomes of our first annual conference below.
How did the InterAct conference benefit attendees?
Gaining actionable human insights into the future manufacturing environment.
Networking and building relationships with cross-sector experts interested in creating a positive, forward-thinking vision for UK industry.
Building narrative development skills to enhance the reach of messaging in the digital environment.
The opportunity to take part in a collaborative workshop on the theme ‘How do we create the digital manufacturing futures we want to see, together’.
Engagement with a panel of highly regarded speakers from the world of manufacturing, policy, and academia during an interactive Q&A session.
We were delighted to welcome a roster of world-leading speakers, who shared unique insights and perspectives on their areas of expertise in relation to the theme of ‘Creating the digital manufacturing future we want’.
Our speakers were drawn from a wide range of backgrounds across industry, policy, think-tanks, and academia. Together they represent a diverse collection of voices that we want to draw into the wider conversation about what it will take to build a future that delivers for everyone.
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.