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November 25, 2011

Government-backed R&D scheme hands out £6m in grants

Businesses taking part will match the investment

By Jason Stamper

Ten British companies are to lead government-backed research, development and demonstration projects that will use talent within the UK’s information and communication technology sectors in an attempt to improve productivity and competitiveness in manufacturing and construction.

The Technology Strategy Board and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council will award over £6m of grant funding to the ten collaborative projects. Including match-funding from the businesses taking part, the total value of the R&D will be over £12m.

The grant funding is hoped to, "Stimulate the use of innovative information and communication technologies in the manufacturing and construction sectors, in which there are major opportunities to increase productivity and competitiveness. ICT has a major role to play in many critical capabilities in manufacturing and construction, including automation, customisation, knowledge sharing across supply chains and simulation & modelling."

The ten projects will be undertaken by consortia led by: 4Projects Ltd, BRE (Building Research Establishment), Caterpillar UK Engines Company Ltd, Fully Distributed Systems Ltd, Housing 21, Johnson Tiles, M Wright and Sons, Simpact Engineering Ltd, Skanska and The Manufacturing Technology Centre.

The funding awards follow successful applications to the ICT for Manufacturing and Construction competition for collaborative research and development funding. Focusing on the software components of ICT and the alignment of ICT systems with people and processes, the competition sought proposals that would develop new approaches to challenges in manufacturing and construction, in areas such as deriving and reusing knowledge, interoperability across supply chains, engaging users in design and operation processes and accelerating product & process innovation.

The news comes amid growing fears that the technology industry is facing a growing skills crisis, with a lack of skills in older technologies such as the mainframe in particular demand. The ESPRC, which is investing over £600,000 out of the total £6m of grant funding announced today, says it invests around £800m a year in research and postgraduate training, to "help the nation handle the next generation of technological change".

You may also be interested in: IT faces skills crisis.

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