Scotland’s national agency for data and artificial intelligence is joining a UK-wide consortium to foster innovation in the manufacturing industry.

The Data Lab will collaborate with the likes of Cambridge and Ulster universities to create an online £53.8m Smart Manufacturing Data Innovation Hub to benefit firms throughout the UK.

SMDIH will be the largest consortium that the Scottish innovation centre has been a part of in its seven-year history. As part of the hub, whose role will be to increase productivity and competitiveness in the UK manufacturing sector, The Data Lab will lead data science efforts which will include coordinating organisations direct access to and assistance from data scientists, extending the reach for participating firms to work with UK cutting edge platforms, facilities and systems, and championing data skills through knowledge exchange workshops and online learning content.

Ulster University, which will lead the consortium, has been working in the manufacturing innovation space for a number of years and were keen to create a model to further extend their work similar to that of The Data Lab which over the last seven years has championed data skills and the increasing the use of data science within organisations.

The hub will empower manufacturing firms to capture and better utilise their data, helping them to increase productivity, growth, and sustainability – all pillars which The Data Lab’s programmes have been built upon. The wider partnership across the consortium brings together skill sets from academia, enterprise agencies and industry to advocate data best practice. 

Nearly 10,000 manufacturers – including those from Scotland – will benefit from the hub and it is expected that 13,000 jobs will be created as a result of its launch, helping to boost economic growth and reinforce the UK government’s level-up strategy.

The hub will be supported by £20m of funding from the £300m UK government-backed Manufacturing Made Smarter programme which has been created to boost UK manufacturing productivity by 30 per cent by 2030 through investment in projects that use industrial digital technologies. This funding is in addition to £30 million of business co-investment. 

Brian Hills, CEO, The Data Lab, said: “Being part of such a significant project which will drive change within a highly technical sector, all while working alongside academic and industry specialists, marks a milestone moment for The Data Lab. While Scotland has benefitted from our experience and services, inspiring others in the UK to adopt our unique approach to building and growing data science and AI skills which will create real change for a sector is momentous.

“Scottish manufacturers and others in the Scottish innovation ecosystem will also benefit from the hub as we will engage with them to drive collaboration and access to the innovation fund with a specific focus on SMEs. This will include CENSIS, the National Manufacturing Institute for Scotland (NMIS) and manufacturing sector teams at Scottish Enterprise and Highlands & Islands Enterprise.”