Digital Catapult announces new testbeds to make UK supply chains more sustainable


Digital Catapult’s Made Smarter Innovation | Digital Supply Chain Hub has announced the winners of a National Digital Supply Chain Testbed competition.

The competition called upon large UK suppliers and manufacturers to develop digital twins of their supply chains in partnership with suppliers to test new solutions that will increase business sustainability and resilience.

The testbeds will be established with NBT Group, Hydrologiq, Circle 8 Textile Ecosystems and Contained Technologies. Each participating company will work with their suppliers to measure supply chain emissions, optimise inventory management, and automate supply chain mapping. 

Doing so will allow for digital twins to be established, facilitating the testing of new strategies and technologies on replica supply chains, to transform cross-sectoral networks and make them more sustainable in the long-term. The projects are co-funded by Digital Catapult and the participating organisations, with each testbed receiving up to £1.5million in co-investment. 

The launch of the testbeds comes as the UK has seen considerable supply chain disruption of late, leading to delayed deliveries, higher prices, and empty petrol stations. Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows just how wide-ranging and publicly visible this disruption has been. Between 20 and 31 October 2021, an average of one in six (or 17%) of adults in Great Britain experienced shortages of essential food items; during the peak of the fuel crisis, 6–17 Oct, 37% struggled to get fuel.  

The Made Smarter Innovation | Digital Supply Chain Hub is an example of how Digital Catapult is encouraging industry adoption of the latest technologies to solve business challenges in supply chain and drive sustainable UK economic growth. 

Tim Lawrence, Director of the Digital Supply Chain Hub said: “The challenges that are facing UK manufacturing are well known, the pandemic and the threats of climate crisis all adding to their woes. Digital technologies are available to address these pressures but adoption in industry has proved to be difficult because there is not an environment where their value can be tested without impacting the actual supply chain.”

“These national testbeds create a digital environment where technologies can be developed and trialled. We’re building supply chains across the UK which are more efficient, resilient and sustainable.”

With sustainability and reaching Net Zero key priorities for the UK manufacturing industry, these testbeds will focus on the circular economy for textiles, food, and new emerging supply chains including hydrogen. 

These testbeds will facilitate the development of new tools and services that will bolster the efficiency and resilience of supply chains, inviting new tech solutions providers to apply to trial their products in an end to end environment built using real life data.

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