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14 cutting edge tech startups join forces with industry titans to address UK’s prevalent manufacturing challenges

Posted 20 Apr 2021
  • Startups selected for the Made Smarter Technology Accelerator programme will use latest advances in technology to help leaders including Sainsbury’s and Babcock International Group thrive in the fourth industrial revolution
  • Real-world solutions include artificial intelligence (AI) to ensure food safety, and using tech from the gaming and music sectors to support shipbuilding engineers to collaborate on designs in real time
  • Startups will be developing prototypes and working towards minimum viable products with potential to hit the market and accelerate sector innovation

An unmanned module to tackle sewer blockages and a digital system for mass-producing customised clothing are just two cutting-edge solutions from 14 startups selected for the Made Smarter Technology Accelerator programme.

The Made Smarter Technology Accelerator is run by Digital Catapult, the UK authority in advanced digital technology. It has been developed to pair industry leaders with technology startups to enable the use of advanced technology to radically alter, and improve, the way manufacturing is approached.

Through each individual challenge the programme aims to improve productivity in the manufacturing sector and help boost the post-Covid economy – supporting the wider Manufacturing Made Smarter Challenge, with its ambition to raise productivity by 30% by 2030.

Each of the 14 startups and scaleups will be developing solutions to address some of the UK’s most prevalent manufacturing challenges, in collaboration with their Industry Challenge Owners – which include Babcock International Group and Sainsbury’s – and the programme’s Tech Sponsors, Verizon Business and Software AG.

The startups and scaleups will each receive up to £20,000 programme funding as they build prototypes and can then apply for a further £100,000 of programme funding to develop minimum viable products later in the programme – resulting in solutions which could be applied for commercial use.

The challenges range from increasing shelf-life and sell-through rate of products while reducing waste (Sainsbury’s) to scalable artificial intelligence for products’ visual inspection (BAE Systems).

Dr Jeremy Silver, CEO of Digital Catapult said: “The UK’s startup community leads Europe in developing applications for advanced digital technologies – but to reap the rewards of this innovation, those developments must be adopted by industrial partners and customers in the UK and around the world. With our focus turning to economic recovery, the Made Smarter Technology programme emphasises the role of advanced digital technologies in tackling industry challenges head-on.

“Congratulations to the successful startups and scaleups who will be working with our industry partners to develop ideas from AI solutions to improve food products’ shelf life, to tech to improve ship design – helping propel UK manufacturing.”

Juergen Maier, Chair of Digital Catapult and Co-Chair of Made Smarter added:

“Whilst the Covid-19 pandemic has brought about extremely challenging conditions for the manufacturing sector, it also represents a chance for industry to take a step back to explore how we can innovate and apply advanced digital technologies to do things better.

“This programme has brought to the fore the world class expertise in the UK technology sector and by pairing bright startups and scaleups with large manufacturers, we hope to leverage those capabilities across a variety of disruptive emerging technologies to meet industry needs – from cutting costs, to boosting productivity.”

The 14 startups and scale ups chosen, their solution and their respective challenge owners are:

  • Ascalia will be working with Sainsbury’s on the microbial control in ready to eat foods challenge: High-tech cameras and artificial intelligence (AI) to ensure food safety from microbes and rot
  • CAE Tech Ltd will be working with Babcock International Group on the digital shipbuilding challenge: Using tech from the gaming and music sectors to support shipbuilding engineers to collaborate on design in real time
  • DIEM Innovations will be working with BAE Systems on the dynamic workflow management challenge: AI solutions and SCALE+, a systems dynamic model, to provide actionable supply chain insights, on where wastage occurs and improving sustainability
  • Innvotek will be working with Northumbrian Water on the sewer blockages challenge: An unmanned module to tackle sewer blockages using AI
  • JetSoft will be working with Babcock International Group on the Warrior base overhaul challenge: This solution uses existing equipment and combined data output to create an automatic 3D dataset, to ease the hull inspection process
  • Machine Intelligence Ltd will be working with BAE Systems on the scalable artificial intelligence for visual inspection challenge: This prototype will use machine learning to identify defects in manufacturing, improve the quality of the end product, reduce waste and save money
  • Metis Automation will be working with O’Neills on the product customisation – intelligent verification challenge: A digital manufacturing system that uses customer order data and converts this data into simple, easy to follow manufacturing steps and checks
  • Pentiot Pentiot will be working with O’Neills on the automation challenge: Using AI guided robotics to automatically feed raw material into sewing equipment to replace seamstress or seamster with a seambot to help O’Neills evolve with confidence from an Industry 2.0 manufacturing facility and bring them on the path to Industry 4.0 delivering a solution to address skills shortage, and deliver sustainability.
  • Riscon Solutions and Inventia UK, with Marketech Solutions on the Northumbrian Water, monitoring water quality within the distribution network and real time analysis challenge: The ITERATION project delivers a cloud-enabled, remote water quality monitoring solution
  • Singular Intelligence will be working with Sainsbury’s on the increasing shelf life and sell through of products while reducing waste challenge: AI-based decision-making to develop a predictive shelf-life model for the supply chain, along with an automated, centralised optimal control system
  • Total Control Pro will be working with Safran Landing Systems on the adaptive scheduling and performance monitoring challenge: A data-driven planning scheduling and resource optimisation solution to tackle the challenges of complex planning and resource management
  • Volatile Technologies will be working with GAF on the asphalt material characterisation challenge: Adapting existing chemical and olfactory testing instruments to deliver non-invasive, batch-on-batch asphalt profiling, without any additional specialist lab equipment.
  • Zeta Motion, with Dakota Systems Inc. on the GAF, machine vision systems for product conformance and machine condition challenge: Machine vision and sensor technology to assess product conformance that is fast, accurate, affordable, and scalable
  • Zizo Software will be working with Safran Landing Systems on the implementation of SPC on all test rigs in the assembly shop challenge: A portable edge industrial internet of things (IIoT) analysis platform to create a repository and platform to manage data from across teams and across functions

The successful startups and scaleups will be presenting their industry-changing prototypes at a presentation event on 23 June 2021.

About the Made Smarter Technology Accelerator:

Delivered by Digital Catapult, funded by UKRI through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, as part of the national Made Smarter movement, the Made Smarter Technology Accelerator is a national programme, set to fast forward and shape the UK’s technology adoption directly into industry. Visit