The Data Lab to lead data science delivery for multimillion pound manufacturing innovation hub 

Brian Hills (The Data Lab CEO)

THE DATA Lab, Scotland’s AI and data science innovation centre, has joined a consortium of 11 other organisations from across the UK to contribute to the creation of a £53.8m innovation hub designed to benefit the UK manufacturing sector.

The Smart Manufacturing Data Innovation Hub (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, which 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 £20 million of funding from the £300 million UK government backed Manufacturing Made Smarter programme which has been created to boost UK manufacturing productivity by 30% 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.”

Other partners involved in the SMDIH alongside The Data Lab and Ulster University include the University of Cambridge, Energy Systems Catapult, Manufacturing Northern Ireland, Scottish Engineering, ATOS, Manufacturing and Engineering Growth Advancement Network, Institute for Manufacturing, Industry Wales, D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership and Science and Technology Facilities Council.

As part of the work being led by The Data Lab, three jobs will be created dedicated to the hub, with further part-time support from existing members of the team. The team is currently looking for a principal data scientist to join the team. More information on the role can be found here:

It is hoped that there will be opportunities to extend the project beyond the initial three-year engagement upon delivery of successful outcomes from the initial multimillion-pound initial investment.

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