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InterAct takes part in Digital Manufacturing Week 2022

The InterAct team once again joined a host of manufacturers and digital technology providers from across the UK at this year’s Smart Factory Expo in Liverpool, as part of Digital Manufacturing Week 2022.

Bringing together all the technologies enabling the digital manufacturing revolution under one roof, the Smart Factory Expo provided an opportunity to develop the ongoing collaborations between InterAct’s research programme and the wider sector stakeholders.

Featured among a great array of expert speakers, InterAct Co-directors Professor Jan Godsell and Professor Jillian MacBryde participated in important talks and discussions on the future of manufacturing, what adaptations are needed and how the workforce must change to ensure the industry’s continued success.

Professor Jan Godsell delivers her talk on how we discuss and describe manufacturing
Professor Jill MacBryde takes part in the panel discussion on ‘Women in Manufacturing’

Examining the way we talk about manufacturing as an industry, Professor Godsell said: “We need to talk about manufacturing in words people can connect with. Its about providing us with the things we need, when we need them, at the lowest cost, but in a sustainable way”.

This theme was further explored through a collaboration with Made Smarter, prefacing upcoming work from Professor MacBryde’s ‘Future of Work’ research team, creating a wall for attendees to share their own perceptions on what manufacturing is.

Attendees were invited to share their own perceptions and thoughts about manufacturing through this wall of contributions

As InterAct continues to explore exciting themes around the future of UK manufacturing, we look forward to meeting and interacting with more stakeholders to build the network.

If you are interested in contributing to our understanding of manufacturing, please take part in our ‘New Technologies, Agility & People’ survey..

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Future of Work team launches survey on ‘New Technologies, Agility & People’

The InterAct ‘Future of Work’ team based in the business school at Strathclyde University are conducting a survey of UK Manufacturers about New Technologies, Agility & People.

Led by InterAct Co-director, Professor Jillian MacBryde, the ‘Future of Work’ research group is seeking to better understand the ways in which we work, how technology will impact the future of these practices and how businesses can adapt to cope with a rapidly shifting competitive environment.

We often hear about how new manufacturing technologies will shape and transform jobs in the sector. Part of the challenge facing many UK employers is trying to understand how these new technologies help productivity. The team want to know how the jobs and skills of today blend into new job and people practices that sit alongside emerging technologies. This survey offers you an opportunity to share your opinions and experience of working within the sector.

The Future of Work group are looking for senior representatives of UK manufacturers to take part in a short 15-minute survey about how their organisation uses these new manufacturing technologies to shape their people practices and facilitate innovation and productivity.

If you would like to hear more about the background of the survey or discuss taking part, please contact project researcher Dr Robert Stewart (robert.stewart.100@strath.ac.uk).

If you would prefer an electronic paper copy of the survey or would prefer to take part in a telephone interview, please send a text to 07901841087 and a member of the team will be in touch.

The survey is completely confidential. Your opinions and your responses are secure and we do not disclose or identify you or your company in any reporting.

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InterAct visits Siemens for National Manufacturing Day

The InterAct team, in collaboration with Make UK and Midlands Engine, recently launched a joint research programme – ‘Digital Future of Manufacturing Ecosystems’. The project aims to identify the ‘Vision 2040’ for the UK manufacturing industry and develop digital roadmaps to support the transition.

Our partners Make UK are spearheading the effort to broaden the appeal of manufacturing careers and build excitement around the industry. On Thursday, 7th July, they held National Manufacturing Day 2022. This annual celebration is a day for companies to open their doors and generate national recognition of the manufacturing sector.

InterAct, as a Made Smarter Innovation funded network, joined this effort with our first Discovery Day event, focused on the ‘Digital Future of Manufacturing Ecosystems’.

We welcomed guests from across the academic, manufacturing and digital technology sectors to join us at Siemens‘ factory in Congleton, Cheshire. Attendees had the opportunity to take part in a guided tour of key workstations within the factory environment and hear from Siemens staff about the benefits of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships in a business environment.

InterAct Co-director and Principal Investigator of the Digital Future of Manufacturing Ecosystems, Professor Jan Godsell further elaborated on the innovative work of her team in regards to supply chains and digitalisation in the manufacturing environment.

Participants were then encouraged to discuss the importance of incorporating new research in industry, developing new ideas and building mutually beneficial relationships.

Professor Godsell said: “I’m pleased to have welcomed such an engaging and varied audience for our first Discovery Day. It’s fantastic to see how much the InterAct community has grown in the months since the programme’s foundation.

“I’d like to thank Siemens for their kind offer to host this event at their premises, where we’ve been able to showcase the practical benefits to businesses of engaging with researchers to help develop their future plans.

“We hope to carry forward this positive momentum into the coming months and years, working closely with our partners at MakeUK and Midlands Engine to shape the future of manufacturing ecosystems. I’m looking forward to welcoming many more new faces at our next events and I hope our community will continue to engage with the programme.”

If you have extensive experience in manufacturing operations, supply chain management, circular economy, sustainability, or industrial digital technology and would like to contribute to the work of the ‘Digital Future of Manufacturing Ecosystems’ team, then consider taking part in our expert interviews.

Contact Frances Zhang: w.zhang4@lboro.ac.uk to find out more about participating.

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InterAct co-hosts international webinar on HRM dynamic capabilities

The InterAct team, in collaboration with colleagues at the ESRC PrOPEL Hub, recently hosted a webinar with keynote speakers Dr Paula Apascaritei and Professor Marta Elvira of IESE Business School, Madrid. The webinar: “Navigating uncertainty: How HRM dynamic capabilities contribute to organisational well-being and performance” was chaired by Professor Colin Lindsay of Strathclyde Business School and the InterAct team.  

Dynamic capabilities have been defined as a firm’s ability to integrate, build and reconfigure internal and external resources to address rapidly changing business environments. This means that dynamic and resilient organisations are defined by their capacity to sense and articulate opportunities and threats, seize opportunities, and reconfigure tangible and intangible assets to transform ways of doing business.

How can HRM contribute to dynamic capabilities? Dr Apascaritei and Professor Elvira shared their research on what ‘HRM dynamic capabilities’ might look like in innovative businesses. First, their research points to the need for an HR function that supports ‘knowledge-building’ within and across teams, for example though the creation of real and virtual spaces for employees and managers to collaborate and learn together. Second, they pointed to value of ‘socially integrative’ HR practices, noting the importance of supporting people in different roles to build relationships with colleagues, customers and partners. Lastly, Dr Apascaritei and Professor Elvira pointed to the value of HRM that supports ‘reconfiguring’ capabilities, with an emphasis on cross-skilling and flexible working practices that fit with the innovation priorities of businesses, including in digital manufacturing.

Much of this discussion chimed with ongoing research being conducted by the ‘Future of Work’ team at InterAct. We are working with manufacturing businesses to identify ‘what works’ in people management and learning to maximise the potential of employees at all levels. If you represent a manufacturing organisation interested in learning from and sharing good practice in work organisation and people management for innovation, contact Professor Colin Lindsay – colin.lindsay@strath.ac.uk – to access our free research and consultancy services.

Watch the full video here.

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InterAct launches Storytelling Fellowship

The InterAct Network’s latest funding opportunity is now accepting applications. The Storytelling Fellowship programme is designed to help build storytelling capacity and skills among successful applicants, allowing them to deliver more effective impact from their work.

The Storytelling academy team is led by Professor Michael Wilson, Antonia Ligouri, and Research Assistants Pip Hardy and Tony Sumner of Loughborough University. This team are experts in the art of digital storytelling, combining their extensive experience to develop an engaging programme of professional development.

The programme aims to use stories to make actionable insights generated from business and research more accessible to end users, the InterAct network, and society at large.

Discussing the project, Professor Wilson said: “This continuous flow of stories between our core stakeholder groups offers opportunities for knowledge exchange and community building, ensuring that evidence from academia and industry both feeds into, and is informed by, policy.

We’re excited to be involved in the InterAct Network, contributing this key part of the programme, as we attempt to bring an innovative approach to how research and subsequent insights are disseminated.”

If you are interested in participating in the InterAct Storytelling Fellowship, you can read further information and apply here.

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InterAct joins the manufacturing community at MACH22

The InterAct team joined representatives from across the manufacturing sector at this years MACH exhibition to showcase the work and aims of the Network.

Exhibiting at MACH as part of the Made Smarter stand from Wednesday 7th to Thursday 8th April, we had the chance to share our vision for the future of human insights in manufacturing with a wide range of new stakeholders.

The InterAct exhibition presence was accompanied by a talk from Co-director, Professor Jan Godsell, who shared her thoughts on how supply chain innovation could help businesses to ‘build back better’ in the wake of COVID.

This talk encompassed the creation of new business models, that decouple consumption from production, the need to break the traditional linear view of supply chains, keeping products in their highest value state, and reuse, repair, and remanufacturing.

Professor Godsell said: “We can no longer think of manufacturing and logistics as separate considerations. Businesses need to develop their planning to design products, processes and supply chains concurrently.

“It is vital that the business solutions that we decide to adopt today, align with the needs of a truly sustainable, productive future. If your organisation is looking to make a change in the way you approach business cases, then look out for the results of our first Systematic Reviews.”   

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InterAct launches first funding call

The InterAct Network has now launched the first funding call for research proposals relating to Systematic Reviews of available literature in two topic areas within the overall Network aims.

The InterAct team launched the opportunity on Wednesday 26 January to an audience of academic and industrial guests via Microsoft Teams. Available in recorded format on the Network YouTube channel, the event addressed the application process and overall themes of the Systematic Reviews, which are:

  • What can we learn from historical and/or international perspectives on industrial development and evolution?
  • What impact will the changing nature of business cases have in enabling the adoption of industrial digital technologies?

Researchers from across the UK are invited to submit proposals for the £60,000 funding grants available through an application pack downloaded from the InterAct website.

InterAct co-director, Professor Jan Godsell said: “We’re really excited to be getting our first call underway and seeing how the social and economic science community chooses to engage with the topics we’ve provided.

“This is a great opportunity for researchers to build their career and portfolio, whilst producing outputs that can help to impact the future course of the Network, manufacturing businesses and policy.”

Find out more about this call and other upcoming funding opportunities.

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InterAct Network plans to bring new human insights to manufacturing sector

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Future of Manufacturing Ecosystems:

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

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

The Future of Work

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

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

The Future of the Economy

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

What does the InterAct Network aim to achieve?

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

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

How to get involved and start interacting

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

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