SMEs are set to benefit from a new partnership designed to address productivity, technology adoption and skills in advanced manufacturing.
The joint venture between the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and Blackburn and Manchester-based IN4.0 PLC will enable businesses to innovate and achieve growth through the utilisation of industrial digital technologies.
UCLan and IN4.0 PLC will work together to help SMEs take advantage of the developments of the fourth industrial revolution, including Virtual Reality (VR), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Additive Manufacturing (AM).
AM refers to technologies which build 3D objects by adding layer-upon-layer of material to form the end product, and is used for prototyping, tooling and manufacturing purposes.
As a result of the partnership, businesses will gain support from specialist graduate, academic and technical talent through consultancy and training, alongside access to state-of-the-art facilities through the University’s £35 million Engineering Innovation Centre (EIC) which is due for completion in January 2019.
They will also be able to work towards reducing new product development time, wastage and costs, while allowing greater variety in design.
Mo Isap, CEO of IN4.0 PLC, said: “We are immensely proud of and excited about our partnership with UCLan. We have a once in a generation opportunity created by the mass change of industrial digital technology.
“The University has already made a significant investment in this space with cutting edge facilities across Lancashire. Being based on campus will allow us to scale our expertise in disruptive manufacturing. Our unique enterprise harnesses the best of thinkers and doers to reduce risk, deliver tangible business success for our customers and establish our region as a beacon for the fourth industrial revolution.”
David Taylor, Pro-Chancellor and Chair of the University Board, said: “Technology develops at a rapid rate so it’s important to keep up with and take advantage of these changes. We know that AM, for example, has the potential to accelerate innovation and productivity, factors at the core of many businesses. We’re aiming to facilitate the implementation of these technologies and act as a catalyst for innovation.
“With the potential challenges to come as a result of Brexit, it’s crucial for businesses to be on the front foot and it’s fitting that Lancashire was very much a key part of the first industrial revolution and is now going to be a catalyst for the fourth.”
Dr John Lonsdale, Director of Innovation and Enterprise at UCLan, added: “Through AM, it’s possible to build larger components and achieve greater precision at higher speeds, while reducing costs – opportunities that until now weren’t easily accessible to SMEs. These factors will have significant outcomes for SMEs, and we’re committed to enabling them to get the most out of new technologies.”