Revolutionising digital technology solutions through SME collaboration

Engineering students to partner with businesses and share expertise as part of their studies

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A unique business support programme, set to power a digital manufacturing revolution in the North West, is tapping into the next generation of innovative minds through collaboration with the LJMU Faculty of Engineering and Technology.

A cohort of 40 Masters students met with four local manufacturing and engineering firms last week as part of the Cheshire & Warrington 4.0 (CW4.0) programme, to explore how the students could use their emerging expertise to optimise business productivity and unlock growth opportunities.

Dr John Marsland, Director of the School of Engineering, said that through the collaboration, students can form close working relationships with businesses that will result in mutual benefit during their extended MSc study.

“It is great to see our students interacting with a number of regional SMEs about ideas for projects and potential placements. Our students study a wide range of MSc programmes, from Electrical Power to Wireless Comms, from Sensors and Data to Embedded Systems and Integrated Circuit Design - so they offer a wealth of knowledge and problem-solving ambition.”

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Students will undertake either on an industrial placement with a regional SME or work on a group design project and individual dissertation as part of their studies and the university’s role in the CW4.0 initiative.

Programme Leader, Dr Princy Johnson, added that working on real-life challenges gives added value to the students’ time at LJMU. “The students develop skills around problem-solving and team working, helping to prepare them for future employment.”

CW4.0 has been created to help manufacturing businesses to seize opportunities for growth and investment through the adoption of digital technology. Part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), CW4.0 collaborates with leading universities, like LJMU, and industry experts to create better access to advanced and world-class facilities.

The initiative follows on from its sister project LCR4.0 which has already unleashed the transformational potential of Industry 4.0, often referred to as the fourth industrial revolution. That project delivered support to over 300 companies and was widely recognised as a national example of best practice.

SMEs on the project implemented new processes and innovations in their business, brought 57 new products to market and created 125 new jobs. A total of 248 manufacturing SMEs were also able to enter into research and development collaborations with universities, many for the first time.

Anthony Walker, LJMU Strategic Manager for the CW4.0 and LCR4.0 projects, said: “The CW4.0 project looks at challenges through the lens of an engineer and our hands on, practical support provides solutions that are relevant and crucial to help industrial SMEs realise their growth potential. CW4.0 is not traditional business support; it is a collection of world class assets and facilities with tailored support around digital technology and innovation to provide solutions to the 21st Century challenges facing modern SMEs”.

One of the businesses that met with LJMU students and toured the state-of-the-art facilities at LJMU including the maritime simulator suite, laser lab and 3D printing studio was Light Coatings who provide consultancy and support services to the thin film industry worldwide.

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Operations Director, George Titley said: “As with all businesses we need to grow, and to be able to work with LJMU presents a fantastic opportunity to do just that. Working with a student presents a great opportunity for all, fresh thinking brings with it a new overview in solving unique problems, that is sometimes lost in a working environment. The exchange of knowledge will be invaluable.”

Other businesses that visited LJMU were RStars Technologies, Core Manufacturing Support Services, DTE Holdings (North West) Limited and Croft Filter Ltd.

Paula Brennan, Research Engineer at LJMU, delivering on the CW4.0 project added: “By engaging with the knowledge base this provides SMEs with resource, new thinking and access to academic experts in digital technology. At LJMU there are teams of researchers with specialist knowledge of Industry 4.0 technologies.”

CW4.0 is fully funded project with no cost to eligible SMEs. Any business looking to get involved with the LJMU collaboration should contact Paula Brennan

-CW4.0 brings together the combined expertise and capabilities of the Virtual Engineering Centre (University of Liverpool), Liverpool John Moores University, the Science and Technology Facilities Council and the Northern Automotive Alliance.


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