MTC offers free robot technology consultancy for SMEs to help transform their businesses

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MTC engineers work on a ground-breaking robot system, one example of an application on show at the ROBOTT-NET Open Lab at the MTC on 26 May 2016.

The Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) is offering companies free consultancy in robot technologies, and a chance to win funding up to €150,000 for automation projects, in a new EU-funded project called ROBOTT-NET.

The aim is to speed up the development of robotic technologies and increase the competitiveness of Europe’s manufacturing sector. ROBOTT-NET will educate companies about hardware, new information technology systems and protocols to help them run factories more efficiently and get more from the data within their businesses.

The MTC, part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, is one of just four leading European research organisations in the ROBOTT-NET consortium, including Fraunhofer IPA (Germany), and the Danish Technological Institute (Denmark) and Tecnalia (Spain).

Each organisation will offer free consulting to companies who develop or deploy automation technology in industrial production. Companies of all sizes with a concrete idea, challenge or development project related to industrial robots are eligible to apply for vouchers that gives the project approximately 400 hours of free consulting. The MTC expects the project to be of greatest benefit to small and mid-sized companies.

The best two project applications from each country’s centre will receive an EU grant of up to €150,000 to develop their robotic manufacturing system.

‘Open Lab’ demonstrator events will be held in all four countries, with the UK’s first Open Lab hosted at the MTC on the 26th May. These events will provide more information on how companies can apply for the vouchers, and how to secure the further development assistance of up to €150,000.

“We need to get more automation into supply chain companies, in the UK but also in Europe, to become more globally competitive”, says Neil Rawlinson, Strategic Development Director at the MTC, who adds that it is recofnised that the “UK lags everyone else [in automation]”.

“Theoretically there is a 30% productivity improvement for UK businesses if we get automation into the supply chain, to reach the same levels as Germany or Japan”

Experts say there has been an industry-wide recognition in Britain that companies can only compete in some areas of manufacturing if they adopt more automated processes, such as material handling and packaging. “This project and the Open Lab gives you access to robotics expertise across Europe, and the MTC is one of them”, says Professor Ken Young, Technology Director at the MTC. “This is one of a series of projects the MTC is leading, that aims to help more companies transform into digital factories capable of competing on quality and price with anywhere in the world. It’s a step into the Fourth Industrial Revolution”.

To award the funding, ROBOTT-NET will provide consultancy for 64 companies across the four countries, 16 per centre. From this pool, the strongest two applications per centre will be awarded the €150,000 grant.

The funding sits under the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 project, the EU’s biggest ever innovation programme with nearly €80 billion of funding to deploy from 2014 to 2020. The first of MTC’s Open Labs, is hosted at the Lloyds Bank Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre on 26th May.

In addition to ROBOTT-NET, the MTC is involved in several other projects to help SMEs across UK supply chains use manufacturing technology to raise productivity and recently launched its 300-page Manufacturing Change Handbook and Government subsidised services for small to medium sized businesses.

To request a Change Handbook contact handbook@the-mtc.org

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