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Loughborough University part of multi-million pound funding to boost manufacturing competitiveness

Loughborough is one of six universities in the UK to receive research funding for projects that will help improve manufacturing competitiveness in the UK by using the latest ICT developments.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has awarded £12 million to the projects.  The funding is part of a £45 million package of investments in manufacturing research announced today (27 February) by David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science.

The projects will use concepts of cloud computing, crowdsourcing, gaming technology, ICT dashboards and platforms to provide new ways to develop, design and manage manufacturing.

Speaking ahead of the BIS Manufacturing Summit on Thursday, Mr Willetts said:
“The UK has a proud history of manufacturing but to build on this success industry needs access to the very latest science and technology.  This £45 million package of investment will see our world-class research base investigating innovative new manufacturing equipment and techniques.  This will support our industrial strategy in a range of important sectors, driving growth and keeping the UK ahead in the global race.”

Mark Claydon-Smith, Manufacturing the Future Lead, EPSRC said: “Advanced manufacturing is highly knowledge-intensive and ICT has a huge role to play in improving manufacturing intelligence, supporting collaboration, increasing efficiency, speeding up innovation and enabling new business models and technologies. These six projects demonstrate the collaborative nature of manufacturing research with nine universities and over 70 manufacturing partners working together.”

The Loughborough University project – Adaptive Informatics for Intelligent Manufacturing – is being led by Professor Andrew West from the School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering and has been awarded £1.9 million.

A multi-disciplinary team from Loughborough and practitioners from industry will form a research cluster with the aim to improve global competitiveness in the supply chains of the defence, automotive and aerospace industries.

The research will support manufacturing practices and infrastructures by developing a range of intelligent software services that can be used throughout the lifecycle of the product or process on demand.  It will bridge the information gaps associated with inefficient supply chain integration and a lack of knowledge on operational usage throughout product and process lifecycles.

The project aims to deliver an ICT solution for companies which captures and analyses a larger range of data, faster, at lower cost and manage it better than ever before.  This will improve a company’s efficiencies, increase market share and develop new products, processes and services. It will enable supply chains to remove defects generated throughout manufacturing, share lifecycle knowledge of product and processes, optimise strategy and understand the impact of legislation, technologies and the impact of adopting new designs and business models.

Academics from Loughborough’s Department of Chemical Engineering are also part of the research team for the ‘Intelligent Decision Support and Control Technologies for Continuous Manufacturing of Pharmaceuticals and Fine Chemicals’ project.  This has been awarded £2.5 million and is being led by Professor Andonovic from the University of Strathclyde.

The team of chemical, electrical engineers and IT specialists will create IT tools based on advanced software using sensors, lasers and ultrasound.  The IT system (Intelligent Decision Support) will collate real time data during the manufacture of pharmaceuticals and fine chemicals.  It will be able to measure changes in a chemicals particle shape, form and size at a 100 micron level, as well as monitor and finely control the production processes. This will result in the production line being operated continuously, instead of in batches, as at present.

The project will cut current manufacturing times in the industry, reduce energy and operating costs, produce better quality products and increase flexibility.  Changes to optimise products or in processes can be made easily.  The deployment of advanced ICT will increase the global competitiveness of this key UK industry.

For a full list of the funded projects visit www.epsrc.ac.uk.

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