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Open call

Industry 4.0 – Hack & Pitch

Open date: Friday 1 December 2017   Close date: Monday 31 December 2018

Hack & Pitch provided a unique opportunity to showcase digital technologies and their practical application in the manufacturing industry.

There is no doubt that we are already part of a dynamic step-change in global manufacturing. The 4th industrial revolution is happening right now accelerated by rapidly evolving technologies including intelligent robots, sensors and 3D printing.

Organisations of all sizes will have to adapt to the digital way of working in order to produce and supply their products rapidly, flexibly, efficiently, and at a consistently high quality. It’s important that companies can respond effectively, or they risk being left behind by further developments in their sector and by other competitors.

It’s a case of adapt or die as digital changes will impact every aspect of a business from shop floor to sales desk, especially in areas such as Digital Twins.

Industry 4.0 has many benefits, but it’s not exempt from its challenges

Larger manufacturing companies find it difficult to change their existing processes, leaving them with more challenges than solutions. That raft of challenges has left these manufacturing companies searching for answers. In order to help uncover the answers, Digital Catapult ran a Hack and Pitch competition in conjunction with Innovate UK and various corporate sponsors.

The Hack and Pitch enabled manufacturers to collaborate with SMEs to find workable ways to alter their processes, allowing them to work smarter and faster, improve customer satisfaction and yet remain profitable. Working with SMEs has enabled Digital Catapult to leverage their structural flexibility to help larger companies solve their challenges.

Challenges from three manufacturing giants

In search of the answers, three big names in manufacturing posed the following challenges to Digital Catapult’s innovation community:

  • What can be done to better exploit the potential of ‘Digital Twins’?
  • How can test results better inform the manufacturing process for high-value steel products?
  • How can manufacturers monitor the condition of hard-to-reach and hard-to-sense parts of their machinery?

Following the Hack & Pitch we saw on-going relationships developed between challenge owners and the pitching finalists. Read on to find out more about the Hack and Pitch approach and why it’s proven so successful.

Find out more about the challenges here

The Hack & Pitch Approach

  • Our Open Call attracted applications from across the country and 12 finalists were selected to head to the Summit.

  • Challenge owners hosted webinars to deep-dive into the subjects associated with the challenges.

  • Tata Speciality Steels supplied test-data to applicants to test drive their solutions before the Summit.

  • Day 1 of Hack & Pitch: Small businesses met with challenge owners; tech experts and industry leaders to perfect their proposals and discuss the challenges in more detail.

  • The morning of day 2: Small businesses pitched their solutions to mixed panels of industry leaders and entered into quick fire questions to assess the validity of solutions.

  • The afternoon of day 2: The finalists gathered at one of the main stages to see who had made it to the public pitch off. The Category Winners were:

    • Testing and Process Innovation supported by Tata Speciality Steel – Flexciton

    • Hard-to-Reach and Hard-to-Sense supported by Siemens – RAB Microfluidics

    • Digital Twins supported by DETC – Quartic

    • Special Commendation by Atos – Spearhead Interactive

  • The pitch-off saw Flexciton run away with the prize money of £2000 with RAB Microfluidics as the runner up receiving £1000.

About the finalists

Summit Champions – Flexciton

Flexciton has significant expertise in engineering, optimisation, statistics and data analytics. At present they are building a completely new approach to optimally operate and maintain industrial machines of plants and factories. Their technology is based on machine learning and data-driven optimisation. The company has significant expertise in engineering, optimisation, statistics and data analytics with strong academic foundations as well as significant industrial experience.

Runners-Up – RAB Microfluidics

RAB-Microfluidics is a Research & Development company that develops cutting-edge microfluidic technology to solve oil analysis problems. They bring the laboratory to the machinery ‘transforming’ maintenance strategies from preventative to predictive maintenance. Their ‘Lab-on-a-chip’ technology delivers oil analysis 1000x faster and 10x cheaper than the current ‘send the sample to laboratory’ approach.

3rd Place – Quartic

Quartic’s software platform enables companies doing big maintenance to make better decisions. By integrating data produced by IoT devices, traditional databases, and ad-hoc “dark data” into a clean, real time stream, the company applies their AI to highlight areas of inefficiency and possible failure. These insights are distributed to engineers and operations personnel across the organisation, from the operations centre to an individual engineer in the field.

Special Mention – Spearhead Interactive

Spearhead Interactive is a multi-award winning emerging technology agency and digital production studio headquartered in North-East England with partners in Brazil and Singapore. They are specialists in immersive and interactive content, virtual and augmented reality experiences and the development of innovative, high-tech solutions. The company creates solutions, experiences, operational software and tools to explain, justify, train, de-risk, plan, entertain, advertise, sell or test any aspect of their activities and visualise their data in context.

See what all the fuss was about

12 finalists took part – meet the teams and watch their profile videos below:

The success factors of Digital Catapult’s Hack and Pitch

Hear from manufacturing leaders who discuss how Digital Catapult’s Hack & Pitch is helping accelerate manufacturing into the 4th industrial revolution: Watch the video and highlights video

Based on the success of this Hack and Pitch, Digital Catapult is working with The Manufacturer to bring the concept to Liverpool in November as part of the Smart Factories Expo. Therefore, we are currently seeking industry sponsors within manufacturing companies and associated businesses to bring their challenges to our network of exceptional small businesses.

Industry 4.0 is set to grow UK and European economies

It’s estimated that the share of investments in Industry 4.0 solutions will account for more than 50% of planned capital investments for the next five years. German industry will thus invest a total of €40 billion in Industry 4.0 every year by 2020. Applying the same investment level to the European industrial sector, the annual investments will be as high as €140 billion per annum.1 If UK manufacturers were to invest as much in Industry 4.0 as their German counterparts, they could boost their revenues by £20bn.2


1PWC: Industry 4.0 – Opportunities and challenges of the Industrial Internet

2Gambica: Industry 4.0 – Vital for UK manufacturing growth