May 12, 2016 | By Tess

The United Kingdom government is launching a funding competition to inspire and promote development in the connected fields of additive manufacturing and connected digital manufacturing. The competition, part of Innovate UK, is offering up to £4.5 million (approximately $6.5 million) in funding to businesses with both novel and applicable 3D printing business proposals.

The 3D printing funding competition is open to all UK businesses, and as it is geared towards collaborative research projects, each business submitting a proposal must be partnered with at least one other business. Research organizations are also welcomed as collaborators. As stated in a brief about the competition, “The aim of this competition is to help companies overcome barriers to business growth in additive manufacturing. It will also encourage them to explore and develop their wider digital manufacturing capability. This will help them secure a more productive and competitive business proposition in the future.”

For those interested in applying for the funding opportunity, be sure to take note of the following details. The proposed projects must stay within a budget of £500,000 to £1.5 million, and each project is expected to last anywhere from 1 to 3 years. In terms of dates, the competition officially opens on May 23rd, and all applicants must be registered by noon on June 20th at the latest. After registration, projects must be submitted by July 27th, 2016. The successful applicants can expect to hear about their funding by October 2016.

As mentioned, businesses who are seeking funding must submit projects relevant in both the fields of additive manufacturing and connected digital manufacturing. Within the scope of additive manufacturing, the competition brief suggests focusing on one or more of the following priority topics:

  • “novel additive manufacturing build process with a viable route to market for UK-based machine platform manufacture
  • large-scale build platforms with a build size in metres with a viable route to market for UK-based machine platform manufacture
  • automation, predictability and cost reduction in the pre and post-process material supply and finishing activities. Projects must show a significant improvement to the overall AM process chain productivity
  • innovative hybrid or interrupted AM processes and/or their integration with the adjacent process(es).”

To account for connected digital manufacturing, the submitted projects must be conceived of in the wider scope of the additive manufacturing process chain, and must be integrated into both industrial and commercial processes in a innovative way. To qualify for the funding opportunity, the proposed project must account for and develop at least one of the following connected digital manufacturing capabilities: interoperability, or the “ability of internet-enabled machines, devices, sensors and people to connect and share data with each other securely (and seamlessly) without the need for specialist technical expertise on the part of the user”; enriched modeling, i.e. the integration of raw sensor data into 3D models and simulations; autonomy, meaning minimal human assistance and intervention; real-time insights, or the ability to collect and analyze data in real-time; and modularity. The connected digital manufacturing element of the project should use only 15% to 30% of the project’s budget.

Of course, as the competition is being funded by the UK government, in order to be eligible projects must be led by UK based companies, and must be developed within the UK. The competition has also listed a number of areas for which it won’t provide funding, including bio-printing, atomic layer deposition, rapid prototyping and tooling machines, or the incremental development of already existing additive manufacturing technologies and platforms.

If your company has a novel project idea in the field of additive manufacturing with connected digital manufacturing elements, be sure to check out the rest of the competition guidelines here and get your application in!



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