manufacturing woman in factory

Manufacturing Innovation Challenge

In collaboration with Techstart Ventures and Seagate Technology

Start-ups and SMEs invited to solve manufacturing challenges and compete for £75,000 innovation grant.

Northern Ireland start-ups and SMEs will have the chance to join an accelerator programme and compete for a £75,000 proof of concept grant as part of a new smart manufacturing innovation competition launched today by Techstart Ventures, Seagate Technology and Digital Catapult.

Innovative thinkers are invited to submit ideas for new technology solutions to solve manufacturing challenges in conjunction with Seagate Technology.

Seagate Challenge

Seagate Technology has been a world leader in data storage and management solutions for 40 years.  The company crafts the datasphere, helping to maximise humanity’s potential by innovating world-class, precision-engineered data management solutions with a focus on sustainable partnerships.  Seagate’s Springtown facility is operational for over 25 years and is recognised as one of the foremost 200mm wafer fabrication plants in the world. The site has grown from an initial charter of world class manufacturing in the first decade of operations to adding development and product launch capabilities in the last ten years. The facility employs over 1,600 staff and continues to develop leading community and academic partnerships.

To ensure that Seagate continues to remain a world leader, Innovation and R&D are integral parts of the manufacturing process. Seagate believes using novel technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), 5G, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Immersive (XR), will be critical for ensuring optimal efficiency and control of manufacturing processes. For this challenge, the focus is on:

  • Using immersive technology to aid the manufacturing process, to create improvements in efficiency, quality and/or health and safety.

Manufacturers are now seeing the benefits that immersive technology can offer in an industrial environment. From design and visualisation, right through to enhanced worker guidance and training during the production process. New and improved ways of using technologies across business lines are constantly being piloted and deployed across the industry.

The projects could explore some of the following areas, this list is illustrative not exhaustive:

  • Use of AR and VR on the assembly line.
  • Design and visualisation of products or processes.
  • New workforce recruitment, training and knowledge retention.
  • Ongoing maintenance, error detection and quality assurance.

Open Challenge

If the Industry Partner led challenges from Seagate Technology do not address your focus or current R&D priorities please apply to the Open Challenge option of this call. We encourage businesses to apply to this call with areas of research and development (R&D) that are relevant for your roadmap.

The following are examples of challenges you may wish to develop a solution for but this list is not intended to be exhaustive:

  • Connect legacy devices/machinery to a 5G network.
  • Improve accessibility and visualisation of manufacturing data. 
  • Address questions of sustainability and netzero in the production process.
  • Using a 5G network for asset tracking throughout a manufacturing facility.
  • Predictive maintenance of machinery and tooling using AI.
  • The use of Automated Guided Vehicles (AGVs) for carrying goods that can be summoned and tracked.

Up to 10 companies will be selected to join a 16 week accelerator programme, led by Digital Catapult, the UK authority on advanced digital technology, and Seagate, the leader in mass data storage solutions. The programme will provide support to startups and SMEs to develop their PoCs, with 1-2-1 mentoring, innovation workshops, and access to testbeds such as 5G, Photonics and Immersive.

These ten companies will have the opportunity to apply and pitch for £75,000 of grant funding from Techstart Ventures to continue to develop the PoC.

The initiative is being launched as part of Smart Nano NI and will take place from Jan 2024 to April 2024.


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