Empowering innovation, diversity and shaping the future of UK manufacturing

Posted on: 07/05/2024
Innovation Alley 2021

A recap of Made Smarter Innovation Network’s impactful journey

From October 2023 to March 2024, UKRI’s Made Smarter Innovation Network (MSIN) Challenge, delivered by Innovate UK, EPSRC and ESRC, embarked on a series of impactful events, propelling change, fostering inclusivity, and driving innovation within the manufacturing sector. This article will take a closer look at the highlights of MSIN activities and the positive outcomes they’ve brought forward.

Women in Manufacturing: Changing Perceptions Conference

On 31 October 2023, MSIN co-organised the ground-breaking, “Women in Manufacturing: Changing Perceptions Conference” at the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry as part of Advanced Engineering week.

This event marked the inception of the Women in Manufacturing initiative, collaboratively organised by the Institute for Manufacturing at the University of Cambridge and Innovate UK’s Made Smarter Programme, the conference aimed to challenge gender norms prevailing in the manufacturing sector while advocating for diversity and inclusion.

With a diverse attendance of over 160 delegates, ranging from apprentices to seasoned industry leaders, the event served as a compelling testament to the industry’s commitment to gender equality and inclusivity.

Wales Tech Week 2023

MSIN further extended its reach by participating in Wales Tech Week 2023, a prominent international event showcasing Welsh innovation.

With over 1,500 organisations and 4,000 attendees, this platform provided an invaluable opportunity for MSIN to engage with global tech leaders, investors, and entrepreneurs, amplifying the impact of their initiatives on a broader scale.

Advancing Gender Diversity in Manufacturing

Continuing their advocacy for gender diversity, MSIN actively participated in panel discussions addressing the gender gap in UK manufacturing.

Dr. Megan Ronayne, Head of Industrial Technologies & Manufacturing, contributed her expertise to a panel discussion during Advanced Engineering week, shedding light on crucial topics such as the business case for bridging the gender gap and practical steps to enhance gender diversity in manufacturing.

Dr. Megan Ronayne, Head of Industrial Technologies & Manufacturing, on a panel at Advanced Engineering Week.

Exploring Opportunities in the AgriFood Sector

In November 2023, MSIN further broadened its horizons by participating in the AgriFood InterAct webinar, focusing on opportunities within the food and drink manufacturing sector.

Through showcasing Made Smarter Innovation-funded case studies and engaging with over 80 businesses, MSIN facilitated knowledge exchange and collaboration, driving innovation within the AgriFood industry.

Championing Women in Engineering and Technology

Innovate UK Business Connect’s, Dr. Becky Bolton Knowledge Transfer Manager – Advanced Manufacturing, took the stage at the Immersive Technology Conference to highlight the remarkable contributions of women in engineering and technology.

By addressing challenges and advocating for empowerment, Dr. Becky Bolton exemplified MSIN’s commitment to fostering an inclusive environment conducive to growth and innovation.

Paving the Way for Sustainability

MSIN began the year of 2024 by presenting Innovate UK Business Connect’s Net Zero opportunities at a High-Value Manufacturing Cluster session in Wales.

This session provided a platform to explore sustainability initiatives and collaborate with 50 Wales-based manufacturing businesses, transcending sector boundaries to drive collective progress towards a sustainable future.

Navigating Funding Opportunities

The Innovation and Support Conference organised by the Technology Supply Chain served as a strategic platform for MSIN to navigate funding opportunities in the West Midlands.

With a focus on networking and knowledge exchange, this event empowered MSIN to forge valuable connections and explore avenues for further innovation and growth.

Digitalisation and Innovation Forums

In February and March 2024, MSIN continued its momentum by participating in a series of events organised by the Made Smarter Innovation Programme. From connecting with research centres and innovation hubs, to showcasing digital supply chain solutions and networking with key stakeholders at the National Manufacturing Summit, MSIN remained at the forefront of driving digitalisation and innovation within the manufacturing landscape.


In summary, the Made Smarter Innovation Network’s journey from October 2023 to March 2024 exemplifies Innovate UK’s steadfast commitment to driving positive change, fostering inclusivity, and accelerating innovation on digital technologies within the manufacturing sector.

Through collaborative initiatives, insightful discussions, and strategic engagements, MSIN continues to pave the way for a more diverse, sustainable, and digitally enabled future of manufacturing.

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