Matthew Godfrey-Faussett of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, was commenting after UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) opened two new competitions which provide businesses scope to access funding towards the cost of technology projects aimed at improving supply chain productivity and resilience.
“The announcement by UKRI is both welcome and timely,” Godfrey-Faussett said. “The inherent weaknesses within many supply chains were laid bare by Covid-19 and remain a serious concern as additional disruption occurs due to the pandemic recession and growing Brexit pressures.”
“The new funding can only accelerate the progression towards digital procurement and allow more businesses to realise the flexibility and value that can be created through the use of smart procurement systems and enhanced data analysis. Whilst relevant platforms and tools already exist, the challenge is to see whether existing players or new entrants can use this extra funding to become market leaders in unlocking real supply chain efficiencies,” he said.
According to one example cited by UKRI, businesses seeking to access the funding could look to use artificial Intelligence (AI) to predict shortages and demand spikes and for directing supplies into the supply chain.
Projects ranging in cost between £250,000 and £3 million will be eligible for the funding, with a maximum of £1.5m available to cover up to 70% of the costs of individual projects. Consortia must include at least one SME.
Juergen Maier, co-chair of the business and government-backed initiative Made Smarter, which aims to boost productivity in manufacturing through the use of digital technologies, said: “Post Covid, more use of digital technologies can have a turbo-charge effect on kick-starting the economy as a whole. Creating resilient and efficient supply chains is a key component of that, where better data analytics, modelling and connectivity can help drill down into supply chains and improve efficiencies very significantly.”
“Looking to improve supply chain operations will give business a much-needed boost as they work flat out to replenish their order books as we slowly come out of the current crisis. This new funding pot will enable the best and most forward-thinking minds to come together to create world class supply chain technologies which will end up being the new must-have for companies in the global market,” Maier said.
The deadline for applications to UKRI’s two funding competitions is midday on 7 October 2020.