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Universities of Warwick and Birmingham partner to boost West Midlands economy

Ways to reduce social inequality in the West Midlands and boost productivity will be researched thanks to an £800,000 research project, led by Warwick Business School with WMG at the University of Warwick, and City-REDI at the University of Birmingham.

WMG and Warwick Business School from the University of Warwick and City-REDI at the University of Birmingham will examine the factors that constrain firm-level innovation and productivity across the region, with a particular focus on the role of skills shortages, the importance of supply chains and impacts of foreign direct investment.

They will also work in collaboration with regional stakeholders, including the West Midlands Combined Authority, the Midlands Engine, five Local Enterprise Partnerships and private sector firms including Jaguar Land Rover and Aston Martin. More widely, the project will connect with the CBI - building on their recent productivity work- the Chambers of Commerce, TUC and Unite.

As well as contributing to the local industrial strategy the research team will examine trade-offs between policies and practices which target improvements in productivity against other development goals.

In particular, understanding how productivity improvements and related policies can contribute to inclusive growth which reduces inequalities within and across regions, or heighten such inequalities is a central aim of the research.

Professor Nigel Driffield, the leader of the project from WBS, University of Warwick said:
Driffield
“This is an exciting project that will look to feed into the region’s industrial strategy. The West Midlands is known as the manufacturing hub of the UK, but it needs to build on this reputation, attracting more investment and more jobs to the area, particularly with the threat of Brexit looming.

"This project has three stands: researching regional Differences, skills and inclusive growth, plus investigating investment decisions, foreign investment and trade; and finally evaluating analytics enabled supply chains and operational productivity.”

Professor Janet Godsell of WMG, University of Warwick comments:
Jan Godsell
“For over 25 years it has been recognised that supply chains compete and not individual companies, but the focus has remained on company productivity.

"This project provides an opportunity to create a step change in productivity, by working with end-to-end supply chains supporting the regions automotive and infrastructure sectors, to improve end-to-end supply chain productivity.”

Director of City-REDI and project lead for Birmingham, Professor Simon Collinson, said:

“I am very pleased to be working with our partners at Warwick University on a project that is so critical to the future economic well-being of the region. The UK lags behind other countries in terms of average productivity and the West Midlands lags behind the UK average.

"But we cannot focus on productivity in isolation of other challenges. By contributing to a reduction in social inequality, alongside promoting economic growth, we are continuing the legacy of the University of Birmingham as a long-standing anchor institution in the Birmingham city-region.”

Professor Anne Green from City-REDI said:

“The foci of the research at City-REDI on skills and inclusive growth issues is in line with key concerns with regional policy makers.”


Smarter, greener, cleaner steel: £35 million boost for research to transform UK steel industry

SteelsA smart, green and clean steel industry will come a giant step closer thanks to a new £35 million research network, announced today, which will see steelmakers and University experts work together on a seven-year research programme to transform the UK steel sector.

The network, called SUSTAIN, is to transform the whole steel supply chain, making it cleaner, greener and smarter, and more responsive to the fast-changing needs of customers. Its work will be concentrated on two areas:

· Zero waste iron and steelmaking, with the aim of making the industry carbon-neutral by 2040: Steel is already the world’s most recycled material, but the network will investigate new ways of making the industry’s processes and products even greener, such as harvesting untapped energy sources, capturing carbon emissions and re-processing societal and industrial waste streams.

· Smart steel processing: like any 21st century industry, steelmaking involves masses of data. SUSTAIN will develop new ways of acquiring and using this data to improve the steels produced as well as in new metallurgical processes, which can deliver bespoke high tech products.

Steel is the most widely-used structural material in the world. If a product isn’t made of steel it’s made using steel. Steel is at the heart of UK manufacturing sectors such as the car industry, construction, packaging and defence. It is an indispensable component of the UK’s future national infrastructure such as transport, communications and energy, and for high-tech 21st century industries, from energy-positive buildings to wind turbines and electric vehicles.

The work of SUSTAIN is projected to:

- Double UK steel manufacturers’ gross value added (GVA) by 2030

- Boost jobs in the industry to 35,000

- Increase productivity by 15%

SUSTAIN involves more than twenty partners across the UK steel industry: companies, trade bodies, research organisations and academic experts including WMG, University of Warwick. The network is being supported by £12.5M investment from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, as one of their Future Manufacturing Research Hubs, along with significant investment from the steel companies within the UK.

The announcement is a landmark as it is the first time that UK steel producers and representatives from the manufacturing sector have lined up behind a co-ordinated programme of research. It is also the largest ever single investment in steel research by a UK research council.

The plan is that SUSTAIN will be a seed from which much wider research and innovation will grow, drawing on expertise across UK academia and beyond.

Professor Claire Davis, from WMG, University of Warwick comments: “The UK has a rich tradition of research excellence and innovation in steel metallurgy. SUSTAIN will bring together leading research groups in this area, as well as introducing new expertise in big data and supply chain innovation, to work collaboratively with the UK industry.

The network will be able to tackle the large issues facing the steel industry, particularly in becoming low energy, carbon neutral, dynamic and responsive to customer needs. It is an exciting time to be working on steel as there are opportunities to contribute to making the planet a greener place.”

Dr Cameron Pleydell-Pearce, steel expert at Swansea University and SUSTAIN’s deputy director, said: “This news is a massive vote of confidence in the steel industry. It will support the industry’s vision for a responsible, innovative and creative future. We are already on the road to clean, green and smart steelmaking, but this is another giant step forward.

Research and innovation are the bedrock of a modern steel industry. This network represents almost the whole UK steel sector, with researchers and companies working together on an unprecedented scale. Here in Swansea we’re proud to lead it.”

Gareth Stace, UK Steel Director General, said: "This new boost of innovation funding into the sector is a vital piece of the puzzle to help deliver our vision of a cutting-edge, vibrant, and sustainable steel industry in the UK.

The future success of our sector rests on our ability to remain at the forefront of product and process innovation, delivering the new steel products demanded by our customers and society. This new hub will enable us to do just that.”


WMG and GEFCO to revolutionise automotive battery supply chain

A new innovation hub is being launched at WMG in partnership with GEFCO today. The Hub will focus on cutting edge research into the future of automotive supply chains, the dual challenges of electrification and using and reusing resources for as long as possible.

The hub is closely linked to the EPSRC(Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council) Sustainable Materials and Manufacturing Centre for Doctoral Training at the University of Warwick.

The first two projects will research new circular business models for the supply, refurbishment and re-use of batteries for the electric automotive supply chain, and the use of new technologies to design fully-traceable and re-usable packaging.

A third project will examine the opportunities for logistics service providers to expand their business models to offer supply chain finance complimentary to out-sourcing of material and information flows.

Professor Jan GodsellProfessor Janet Godsell, from the Supply Chain Research Group, WMG, University of Warwick will head up the new hub, she comments: “Digital technology provides an opportunity to re-think the way in which we do business, and blurs the traditional distinction between manufacturing and logistics. A distinction further blurred as we seek to develop new business models that more holistically consider reuse, repair, remanufacture and recycling.”

Helen Grover, Human Resources Director at GEFCO UK comments:

“We are delighted to work with GEFCO to launch their Supply Chain Innovation Hub at WMG, University of Warwick. This £180k investment will support GEFCO to provide leading edge digital supply chain solutions that meet their customer needs in a cost effective and sustainable way.

“We are looking forward to working with WMG, University of Warwick because it allows us to be involved with cutting edge research and puts us at the forefront of the future of sustainable manufacture and logistics. The partnership sits perfectly with our company ethos of always seeking new innovative solutions to maintain our growth and to improve the way our industry works”.

ENDS

About GEFCO
At GEFCO, we believe long-lasting cooperation with partners is the key to shared growth. Building on 69 years of expertise and a strong heritage in the automotive industry, we design smart, flexible solutions for complex supply chains. Today, the GEFCO Group is the European leader in automotive logistics, and a top 10 global partner in multimodal supply chain solutions.

The Group is present in 47 countries, includes over 300 destinations in its current network and employs 13,000 people globally. GEFCO reported a turnover of €4.4 billion in 2017.

GEFCO has been present in the UK since 1981. With headquarters located in Coventry, GEFCO UK employs 600 people in 18 sites. https://uk.gefco.net/ 

Website: www.gefco.net; Twitter: @GEFCO_Group


Construction in the UK revolutionised by £2.5m project to unite business and research

WMG is part of a new £2.5m project to bring together businesses and researchers to help overhaul construction practices in the UK.

The way buildings are constructed has changed relatively little in the last 40 years and has not seen the same increase in productivity or innovation as other industries. This project - called the Transforming Construction Network Plus (N+) - is one of the investments within the Transforming Construction Challenge (TCC), a programme supported by the UK government's Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

The overall Transforming Construction Challenge looks to enable the sector to produce safe, healthy, efficient buildings using the latest digital manufacturing techniques. These will be more energy efficient structures, using modern materials and digital design methods to build better buildings for people in the UK. N+ will support the industry to adopt these technologies and help buildings to be constructed 50% faster, 33% cheaper and with half the lifetime carbon emissions.

The purpose of the Transforming Construction Network Plus is to create a new community of researchers and a body of knowledge to inform future construction policy and practice to achieve the TCC’s overarching goals. With £1m to invest in a raft of new research projects over the next two years, the Transforming Construction Network Plus (N+) will mobilise a new movement in the construction community.

N+ will issue two open calls for small research projects, funding up to 20 academic-led and user-inspired projects to generate new research findings. Academics from a range of disciplines will take part and work together with users, as project partners, to develop new ideas for transforming construction.

N+ focuses on supporting research that looks at construction as a production 'system' for built assets that adds value to cities and their infrastructures. Transforming design, construction and operation of buildings is a problem that demands input from a wide range of backgrounds and disciplines, which is why major, coordinated investments are being made through the TCC.

The research supported through the N+ will focus on the gaps, inter-relationships and under-explored regions of this domain, spanning digital, energy, construction and manufacturing expertise, in line with the expectations of the Industrial Strategy Construction Sector Deal.

The N+ will address a future in which the UK designs, constructs and operates buildings by realising the potential for integrating advanced offsite manufacturing with state-of-the-art digital design and energy generation and storage technologies. By exploring and synthesising knowledge of how people and communities experience and interact with the built environment, N+ will foster new approaches to the provision of inspiring buildings that give rise to greater user satisfaction and productivity.

Professor Jan GodsellProfessor of Operations and Supply Chain Strategy Janet Godsell comments: “Digital technology provides a once in a lifetime opportunity to connect the fragmented pockets of good practice that exist across construction supply chains, to transform construction.”

Professor Jacqueline Glass, UCL’s Principal Investigator for the N+, said: “With the N+, we have an extraordinary opportunity to tackle longstanding problems which have held back UK construction for decades. We are delighted to be collaborating with researchers from Imperial College London and WMG, University of Warwick to create an integrating agenda for a fragmented industry, by building a new movement of researchers and delivering an evidence-based manifesto for change.”

Jennifer Rubin, ESRC Executive Chair said: “This is innovative, inspiring work that has the potential to impact on the places we work and live in while positioning the UK as an industry leader on the international stage for construction technologies and businesses. ESRC is excited to be working on this project on behalf of UKRI.”

Notes to editors:

The full team are:

· Professor Jacqui Glass, N+ Principal Investigator and Chair of Construction Management, UCL Bartlett School of Construction and Project Management

· Co-Investigator - Professor Andrew Davies, The Bartlett School of Construction and Project Management, University College London

· Dr Martin Davies, Director of Business and Innovation Partnerships, UCL Innovation and Enterprise

· Professor Jan Godsell, N+ Co-Investigator and Professor of Operations and Supply Chain Strategy, WMG, University of Warwick

· Professor Jennifer Whyte, N+ Co-Investigator and Laing O'Rourke/RAEng Chair in Systems Integration, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Imperial College London

· Co-Investigator - Professor Paul Ruyssevelt, UCL Energy Institute, University College London

The Industrial Strategy sets out a long term plan to boost the productivity and earning power of people throughout the UK. It sets out how we are building a Britain fit for the future – how we will help businesses create better, higher-paying jobs in every part of the UK with investment in skills, industries and infrastructure.

 


WMG report reveals digital supply chain concerns

A report by WMG Supply Chain researchers, and JDA Software Inc, has revealed that manufacturers are still struggling to effectively integrate and analyse supply chain data, with many still only in the very early stages of digital supply chain adoption.

The report, ‘Delivering the Digital Dividend,’ benchmarked the digital supply chain readiness of 179 European manufacturers, revealing that only 13 per cent currently have a ‘prescriptive’ supply chain (categorised as level 3, out of a scale of 1-4, with 4 being a self-learning autonomous supply chain).

However, crucially, the report does reveal that manufacturers are keen to digitally transform their supply chains, with almost one third (31 per cent) predicting they will have a prescriptive supply chain in place by 2023.


WMG Professor crowned Real Impact award winner  

Professor Jan GodsellWe are pleased to announce that our Professor of Operations and Supply Chain Strategy, Jan Godsell, has been recognised as the first ever winner of the Real Impact Awards ‘Individual’ category.

Professor Godsell, who was nominated for the award by our Chairman Professor Lord Bhattacharyya, impressed the judges with the way that she puts practitioners, policy makers and the public at the heart of her scholarship, and her innovative approach to building impact through storytelling, poems, physical artwork and the media.

The Real Impact Awards celebrate the commitment to impact by the research community across the globe, honour the change-makers, and bring together key stakeholders in the impact debate.

The awards aim to raise the profile of individuals, teams and institutions that have placed real impact at the top of their agenda; recognise innovative approaches to impact; celebrate interdisciplinary research; bridge the gap between research and practice; and tell real impact success stories and showcase those driving the debate.


WMG gives free access to tool for companies preparing for Industry 4 – enabling the next generation of manufacturing

Jan GodsellWMG researchers, at the University of Warwick, have worked in conjunction with Crimson & Co and Pinsent Masons, to produce a free to access “Industry 4” readiness assessment tool. It is designed to provide a simple and intuitive way for companies to start to assess their readiness and future ambition to harness the potential of the new cyber-physical age

The term Industry 4 originates from the high-tech strategy of the German government, which soughtto re-define the role of manufacturing post the global economic crisis. It suggests that we are on thecusp of the 4th Industrial Revolution, a cyber physical age, which will be realised over the next 20years.


Research finds that UK companies that consider both direct and indirect reshoring of manufacturing gain best performance boosts

A new report launched today by researchers at WMG at the University of Warwick, and Reshoring UK, finds that UK companies that consider both direct and indirect reshoring of manufacturing gain best performance boosts and urges companies to consider both approaches when developing their future strategies.

The report will be launched at WMG Supply Chain Research Group event entitled “Realities of Reshoring: A UK Perspective held tonight, Tuesday 26 September 2017, in the International Institute for Product and Service Innovation (IIPSI), WMG, at the University of Warwick.


WMG Professor talks ‘Reconciliation and the Fourth Industrial Revolution’ at Coventry Cathedral

 Jan GodsellOur Professor of Operations and Supply Chain Strategy, Jan Godsell will be presenting ‘Reconciliation and the Fourth Industrial Revolution,’ next Tuesday (28 February) at Coventry Cathedral.

The first two Industrial Revolutions saw significant expansion and development for Coventry. But its success also made it vulnerable. It’s expertise in the automotive industry and in manufacturing made it a bombing target in World War II.

What’s more a reliance on these heavy industries further exposed the city to decline as the UK’s manufacturing sector was largely decimated with the Third Industrial Revolution during the latter part of the 20th century. This has left the area with a range of employment challenges and industrial relations issues between large and small companies.

 


SMEs, are you ready for Industry 4.0?

Professor Jan GodsellWMG’s Supply Chain team, led by Professor Jan Godsell, is looking to understand the readiness of industry to embrace the opportunities of the cyber-physical age. To do this SMEs are invited to take part in a short survey that will assess your organisation against a range of different dimensions. The results will be aggregated to identify the readiness for Industry 4.0 of different countries, industries, and business types.

The results will be discussed at a special Supply Chains in Practice (SCIP) networking event on 20th June. Company specific results will also be available after the event.

The term Industry 4.0 originates from the high-tech strategy of the German government, which sought to redefine the role of manufacturing post global economic downturn.