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What are the biggest innovators in the UK manufacturing industry?

  • Written by the MPA Group

    Despite years of uncertainty and widespread scepticism, the UK manufacturing industry is still a force on the world stage. According to The Manufacturer, the UK is the eighth largest industrial nation in the world and is predicted to make the top five in the near future. 

    However, for this growth to continue and for the country to maintain its prominence, companies must look to innovate and adapt to a changing world. Here is a selection of innovations that are making an impact in this competitive market, helping to ensure that the UK is still a major player in the industry.

    Industry 4.0

    Factory automation has been a long-term goal of the manufacturing industry for a while and now companies are accelerating towards Industry 4.0 quicker than ever. This futuristic-sounding target involves technology taking over some of the manual tasks within a supply chain, with sensors constantly monitoring the efficiency of the process.

    Willowbrook Foods for example, is a fresh vegetable processing company based in Killinchy on the Strangford Lough, who last year told Sync NI they attributed the company’s long-term survival to automation, in part.

    Mark Taylor of Chicago Pneumatic Desoutter UK presented his ideas at the Advanced Engineering Show 2018 and said that it is the data which such sensors gather that is the important element of Industry 4.0. In such a connected environment, every level of the manufacturing process is digitised, meaning that faults can be quickly identified and resolved.

    Sourcing sustainability

    A recent survey by Veolia found that nearly 90% of Brits believe packaging should be more sustainable. The study revealed that the nation would prefer packaging to “include recycled material, be more easily recyclable or be removed altogether”. With this in mind, the manufacturing industry must work to reduce the environmental impact of their packaging or risk being boycotted by consumers.

    Printing progress

    The world is widely embracing 3D printing and industries are incorporating the technology into their business models in exciting ways. In 2018, 3D printers produced everything from prosthetic limbs to whole houses and their output is only going to grow more sophisticated and varied over time.

    Well-known Belfast startup Axial3D explained here last year how their team produces 3D prints of your body parts.

    However, before 3D printing even reaches its full potential, a new wave of even more advanced devices are beginning to make a splash. As explained in an article by 3D Printing Industry, Daghan Cam, CEO at AI Build, believes that in 2019, we could start to see the rise of 4D printers: “The 4D printing process will… continue to grow, enabling the production of ‘smart’ objects that have the capacity to self-assemble or shape shift when exposed to different stimuli.”

    Staff at the University of Bristol and the University of Bath has recently pulled the technology to within touching distance by creating a responsive cellulose-hydrogel composite ink which can be used in the printers. This material is a key ingredient for the development of the technology, which experts predict could be revolutionary.

    One area where 4D printing could make a massive impact is the manufacturing and delivery of prescription medicines. As described in an article by the Daily Express, the printing could deliver “customised and personalised medicine from hydrogels – water-compatible gelatine – which can expand, change shape and activate on a delayed schedule”.

    Such technology could produce pills which only activate once they reach certain areas of the body, making the medicine personal to the individual.

    Continued innovation

    The UK manufacturing industry is in a strong place, building on strong foundations while keeping an eye on the future, jumping on emerging trends. Innovation will keep the nation at the forefront of global trade and with 70% of business R&D being made up of manufacturing research; it appears UK companies are keen to keep pushing onwards.


    About MPA Group:

    MPA Group helps clients accelerate their innovation and business expansion. They help companies to capitalise on their research, innovation and development activities by maximising all the potential benefits from available HMRC tax concessions.

    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

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