The completion of the first phase of a major digital research, skills and innovation initiative has underlined the West of England as the next frontier of engineering.
The culmination of the initial phase of the Digital Engineering Technology & Innovation (DETI) programme is a major milestone. It paves the way for the development of highly innovative products and ways of working that will deliver economic, social and sustainability benefits for future generations.
By bringing together world-leading technology firms and innovators from academia and industry, DETI has created a fully functioning digital test-ground and digital workforce in the South West. These globally pioneering firms include Airbus, GKN Aerospace, Rolls Royce and Siemens. Since the collaboration started in 2020, DETI has enabled organisations to explore and develop the technologies of tomorrow.
Dan Norris, West of England Metro Mayor, explained: “The DETI programme is key to harnessing the innovation and abundance of talent we have in our region to tackle global issues such as climate change. This programme is building the technologies and digital skills we need to reach our net-zero ambitions, while demonstrating to the world that the West of England is the go-to place for digital and technological innovation and engineering knowhow. In turn, through programmes like DETI, we are creating low-carbon investment opportunities for the region and inspiring our young people to pursue careers in the green economy.”
Innovative concepts which integrate technologies in novel ways have been developed to improve the speed and efficiency of the design process and to produce better and more sustainable high-performance products. Pushing engineering boundaries, these could accelerate transformational innovation in industrial design and manufacturing.
So far, over a dozen manufacturing and design full-scale demonstrators have been developed through DETI, providing insight into how to identify opportunities and then design and deploy digital solutions which offer the best return on investment.
Highlights include research and tools that will power the next generation of electric vehicles; quantum-secure 5G connectivity to operate remote factories; and digitally-led product development that is five times faster than traditional methods. Presented in the latest edition of Digital Now, these proof-of-concept demonstrators offer digitally-enabled ways to make British industry more sustainable by reducing cost and waste, and promoting right-first-time manufacturing. In turn, this makes the UK more competitive globally and creates new markets and opportunities for businesses locally.
DETI is also connecting and inspiring the engineers of the future while demystifying and accelerating the role of digital technologies in creating sustainable growth.
The DETI Skills Inspire programme has engaged directly with over 218 schools and community groups across the region, encouraging school children to explore digital engineering. Projects included creating a digital version of West of England landmarks in the popular block-building video game ‘Minecraft’, as well as an ‘Engineering Curiosity’ Top Trumps-style card game based on real-life engineers in the region.
Beyond research and demonstrators and inspiring future engineers, the legacy of this first phase of DETI has been to act as a catalyst in providing the South West supply chain with access to a team of skilled and experienced researchers and innovators who can diagnose and design solutions and advance the use of digital technology. In addition, the DETI STEM skills and workforce development programme is transforming the current and future workforce’s development of digital skills by offering courses covering big data, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and robotics, to ensure the region’s workforce is digital-ready.
Richard Oldfield, Chief Executive Officer at the National Composites Centre, added: “The South West has a proven record of leading the development of next generation products. DETI’s success is founded in fostering successful collaborations between academia, industry and world class R&D innovators. By enabling highly innovative concepts to be tested and trialled, the ‘learning factory’ that DETI partners created de-risks implementation and demonstrates return on investment and increased agility. This puts the region at the leading edge of work to develop technologies and tools that will advance our net zero future and inspire future generations.”
The DETI consortium brings together digital technology expertise from the private sector and academia from across the region. Made possible by a £5m investment from the West of England Combined Authority, with co-investment from the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and industry, DETI is delivered by the National Composites Centre, the Centre for Modelling & Simulation, Digital Catapult, the University of the West of England, the University of Bristol and the University of Bath.