Chris Middleton reports on how government-affiliated group KTN aims to help manufacturers weather the Covid and Brexit storms via a new series of skills and technology roundtables.

Networking organisation the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) is to host a series of workshops from the end of November to help the UK’s manufacturing sector back onto its feet.

The events will help companies share knowledge, form new industry groups, and learn about smart manufacturing techniques.

The context is ongoing economic woes in the wake of the pandemic and the uncertainties of Brexit.

UK manufacturing output remains 2.3 percent lower than in February 2020, according to recent government figures. That is despite a six percent year-on-year uptick in July 2021 and the record increase of 39.4 percent recorded in April, according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

The UK’s economic bounce in the Spring and early Summer this year was relative to 2020’s dramatic falls. UK GDP fell by nearly 10 percent last year, while manufacturing declined by 7.1 percent in October 2020 alone.

Even though many Covid restrictions have been eased, the bad news is the UK’s recovery seems to have stalled: the economy grew by just 0.1 percent in July. This followed the most recent ONS quarterly bulletin, which recorded a 4.8 percent year-on-year GDP increase in Q2 – encouraging, but still 4.4 percent below pre-pandemic levels (Q4 2019).

According to that bulletin, overall production rose by 1.8 percent in Q2, driven by a rise in the manufacturing of food, beverages, tobacco, machinery, and equipment. However, other manufacturing sectors suffered a severe decline – in the case of automotive, by 16.7 percent.

At this stage, it is unclear how much economic weakness can be laid at the door of Covid shutdowns and how much can be attributed to Brexit-related red tape, logistical challenges, and the increased cost of trading with Europe.

So, what can be done to help UK manufacturing back onto its feet and support its growth in a difficult world? One route is to help it become smarter and reskill the workforce to exploit new technologies, believes KTN.

The networking organisation works with Innovate UK and its parent organisation UK Research & Innovation (UKRI) to enable greater innovation in the local economy.

In November, KTN will be hosting a series of specialist roundtables for manufacturers, aimed at helping different subsectors to collaborate, discover, and adopt new technologies, including smart manufacturing techniques, digital systems, and artificial intelligence (AI).

The workshops will also present manufacturers with new networking opportunities among their peers, universities, and the Catapult organisations, helping to speed the adoption of new technologies and lower implementation costs.

“The aim is to accelerate innovation in various manufacturing processes and help organisations to work as efficiently as possible,” says KTN.

“We hope that these workshops will result in consortiums being formed which involve the Catapult network, academia, and industry. The consortiums will also be encouraged to apply for upcoming funding competitions towards the end of 2021 and in 2022.”

KTN is targeting key sectors within manufacturing and its supporting industries. “Make sure to apply if your business is a small and medium-sized enterprise (SME), corporate, or works with the manufacturing industry, or manufactures products for a variety of uses, including aerospace, construction, food and drink, robotics, packaging, health, MedTech, machinery, or a related manufacturing field.”

If you would like to be involved, please submit an Expression of Interest to KTN by 1 October. The workshops will begin in the week of 29 November 2021.

  • The worldwide smart manufacturing market is forecast to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.7 percent from 2021 to 2027, according to a report published this month on


Get involved in pertinent industry discussions at these forthcoming events:

  • Digital Manufacturing Summit – Chicago 2022 – April, 6th & 7th 2022
  • Digital Manufacturing Summit – London 2022 – 25th & 26th May 2022
  • Digital Manufacturing Summit – Singapore 2022 – July, 13th & 14th 2022
  • Digital Manufacturing Summit – San Diego 2022 – November, 30th 2022

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