Clouds, crowds and games improve UK manufacturing

UK Manufacturing

27 February 2013

An Aston Business School project to develop 3D virtual business worlds has been selected by Government to help improve the UK’s manufacturing competitiveness.

Professor Tim Baines will be leading a £1.5m project into the use of video gaming technologies and computer simulations in the manufacturing process.

The team of Aston, Coventry and Sheffield university researchers will be creating 3D digital worlds and simulations which can represent and handle the complex data systems of manufacturing companies. This virtual software will allow  business managers to then discover how they can transform their company business models from solely manufacturing products only, to a potentially more robust and competitive services and products combination.

Industry collaborators helping to develop the project and software are; TEKS, Xerox UK Ltd, UK Council for Electronic Business, Technicut, Finning UK Ltd, Total Eclipse, Ford Motor Company, Serious Games International, SEMTA, Second Places Ltd, PlayGen, PERA Innovation, MAHER Ltd, MAN Truck and Bus Ltd, Virtualware Labs, Footprint Sheffield Ltd, AMRC, Birmingham Science Park, BIS, HCL Technologies Ltd, Alstom.

Tim Baines, Professor of Operations Strategy at Aston Business School, said;

“Three quarters of world-wide wealth is created through providing services so helping manufacturers compete in this way is seen as a huge opportunity, a competitive advantage, and key to manufacturing success in the UK. This research aims to use applied gaming technologies to help mainstream manufacturers to transform their company models to a more robust and competitive product service system model.”

 The Aston led project is one of six research projects awarded £12m of Engineering and Physical Sciences Council grant funding as part of a £45m package of investments in manufacturing research announced by David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science.

The projects will use concepts of cloud computing, crowdsourcing, gaming technology, ICT dashboards and platforms to provide new ways to develop, design and manage manufacturing.

Mr Willetts, said; “The UK has a proud history of manufacturing but to build on this success industry needs access to the very latest science and technology. This £45 million package of investment will see our world-class research base investigating innovative new manufacturing equipment and techniques. This will support our industrial strategy in a range of important sectors, driving growth and keeping the UK ahead in the global race.”

Mark Claydon-Smith, Manufacturing the Future Lead, EPSRC added; “Advanced manufacturing is highly knowledge-intensive and ICT has a huge role to play in improving manufacturing intelligence, supporting collaboration, increasing efficiency, speeding up innovation and enabling new business models and technologies. These six projects demonstrate the collaborative nature of manufacturing research with nine universities and over 70 manufacturing partners working together.”


For further media information please contact Alex Earnshaw, Aston University Communications on 0121 204 4549 or

Notes to editors

The full list of shortlisted Government projects are: 

Transforming the adoption of Product-Service Systems through innovations in applied gaming technology. Led by Professor Tim Baines, Aston University, with Professor K Ridgway, University of Sheffield and Professor  S de Freitas, Coventry University. Grant value £1.5 million.

Cloud Manufacturing – towards a resilient and scalable high value manufacturing.  Led by Professor Svetan Ratchev, University of Nottingham.  Grant value  £2.4 million.

Intelligent Decision Support and Control Technologies for Continuous Manufacturing of Pharmaceuticals and Fine Chemicals. Led by Professor Andonovic, University of Strathclyde with Loughborough University. Grant value £2.5 million.

Prototyping Open Innovation Models for ICT- enabled Manufacturing in Food and Packaging. Led by Dr Sharon Baurley, Brunel University with the University of Nottingham. Grant value £1.8 million.

The Language of Collaborative Manufacturing. Led by Dr Ben Hicks, University of Bath. Grant value £1.9 million.

Adaptive Informatics for Intelligent Manufacturing. Led by Professor Andrew West, University of Loughborough. Grant value £1.9 million.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK’s main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. EPSRC invests around £800 million a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change. The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone’s health, lifestyle and culture. EPSRC works alongside other Research Councils with responsibility for other areas of research. The Research Councils work collectively on issues of common concern via Research Councils UK.