5G productivity boost for the North

21 September 2020 by Ed

AMRC, Miralis and Digital Catapult are part of the 5G Factory of the Future programme giving manufacturing and industrial businesses in the North West a boost with the announcement of almost £10 million public/private investment in an open access 5G industrial testbed.

5G productivity boost for the North

Manufacturing in the North West received a massive confidence boost with the announcement of almost £10 million public/private investment in an open access 5G industrial testbed led by the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC). Digital Catapult will be the technical authority lead and coordinate 5G integration, working closely with Three and use case developers.

The 5G Factory of the Future programme will be based primarily at the AMRC North West’s soon-to-be- built facility on the Salmesbury Enterprise Zone, and will enhance Lancashire and the North West’s reputation as a hot-bed of advanced manufacturing innovation and expertise. 

The £9.5 million award, which includes match funding from industry, was made by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and is part of the government’s £200 million investment in 5G testbed facilities across the country. The consortium includes BAE Systems, IBM, and Three, along with Burnley based MTT, the Lancashire based data-driven logistics specialist Miralis, and Digital Catapult.  

Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman said: "The government is investing to help innovative thinkers in brilliant British industries harness the power of high-speed 5G connectivity. With the North West's strong industrial heritage it is fitting that a project to create the factories of the future should take place in the region. I look forward to seeing how 5G's role in boosting economic productivity can be employed in other sectors.”

Dritan Kaleshi, Head of 5G at Digital Catapult commented: “5G has the power to transform manufacturing, so we’re excited to bring Digital Catapult’s industry-leading technical know-how to the Factory of the Future project, and create another open access 5G testbed for the benefit of UK businesses. 

This project will enable early experimentation and development to build POCs and run trials on specific use cases that prove value, quickly build up capability, and deliver value and tangible impact for organisations that take advantage of the new facility.” 

AMRC North West Commercial Director, Melissa Conlon, whose team is part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult said: “This is a big vote of confidence in Lancashire and the North West and a potential game changer for the region. 

Lancashire is home to leading global businesses in the advanced manufacturing sector; aerospace, automotive and energy. While the region’s manufacturing has high levels of economic activity, it lags behind the rest of the North West and the UK in productivity. This investment will change that. It will enable Lancashire’s manufacturers to close the productivity gap with the implementation of 5G technologies the adoption of which will be de-risked and fine-tuned at the AMRC.”

The benefits of the 5G-FoF programme should dramatically improve the performance of manufacturers across the North of England, with significant reductions in defects and waste through real time monitoring; enhanced machine utilisation and energy saving through digital twin track and trace; and a big reduction in travel and maintenance times brought about by shared ‘hybrid reality spaces.’

BAE Systems’ Manufacturing and Materials Technology Director, Andy Schofield, said: “This is a big win for the region and shows our commitment to keep Lancashire at the forefront of advanced manufacturing in the UK. The 5G research and development test bed will support the development and growth of our new intelligent, smart factory which is applying game-changing digital technologies to the defence sector.”

The 5G-FoF programme will also have a significant footprint at BAE Systems’ site in Warton, which is the result of a multi-million pound investment and collaboration with more than 40 blue chip and SME companies along with academic institutions. 

Schofield added: “The 5G FoF programme will drive forward holistic connectivity and unlock the potential of industrial digitalisation. It will define a new paradigm for how future factories will operate enabling connectivity and business agility both across manufacturing operations and beyond, into the supply chain. The transformative potential of 5G technology will be developed and demonstrated via a strong consortium, including the UK Catapult Network and the BAE Systems Factory of the Future to advance manufacturing on the UK’s next generation combat aircraft system, Tempest.”

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