The Government has launched a new £30m competition for research and development projects that could boost the productivity and agility of UK manufacturing.

The competition, which opened yesterday, is part of the Manufacturing Made Smarter challenge aimed at the development and integration of industrial digital technologies, and is being funded through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said the Government was “committed to making sure manufactures are best places to take advantage of the opportunities being created by industrial digitalisation”.

He added: “We want to support companies of all sizes who want to develop new digital capabilities, and will support projects that will help ensure the UK remains at the forefront of technological developments.”

The fund encourages the application of new digital technologies in manufacturing, including AI and Virtual Reality, and nurtures a collaborative and cross-sector approach to digital technology R&D.

Juergen Maier CBE, Siemens UK CEO and Co-Chair of the Made Smarter Commission said: “This investment is an incredibly important step forward, helping our small manufacturers embrace the latest advanced and digital technologies at a very disruptive time for the industry.

“Through this challenge there is a real opportunity to boost national productivity and stimulate engineering entrepreneurship, which will create the new high wage-high skilled jobs of the future.”

Projects funded by the competition must be business-led and collaborative, and have the potential for rapid impact.