Cranfield University is one of 24 institutions to receive early-stage funding from UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Strength in Places Fund, to develop full-stage bids that could lead to significant economic growth in locations across the country.

Michael Bourlakis, Professor of Logistics and Supply Chain Management at Cranfield School of Management, explained the bid: “Today's companies are inundated with data and striving to leverage internal and external data to increase their competitive advantage. The planned Supply Chain 4.0 South East Midlands Hub of Excellence will offer them knowledge, expertise, and a test bed for new ideas to improve their supply chain processes and operations by introducing automation in logistics and supply chain activities.”

The Hub will provide analytics to better match supply with demand by utilising the latest technologies for the last-mile-delivery such as drones, autonomous vehicles, and robots. The Hub's services will range from predictive, prescriptive, and cognitive analytics to skills development in logistics and supply chain management from a digitalisation perspective for large companies and SMEs.

It will be equipped with high-performance computers that can run large-scale optimisation and simulation models, as well as machine learning algorithms and staff that can transfer the knowledge in the Hub to its stakeholders to increase their Supply Chain 4.0 capabilities.

The University’s partners in the project will include: SEMLEP (South East Midlands Local Enterprise Partnership), Network Rail, John Lewis Partnership, Transport Systems Catapult and FiveAI. The Cranfield research team, which is also in conversation with other companies and stakeholders in the region, includes Professor Michael Bourlakis, Professor Emel Aktas and Mike Bernon.

Announced in the modern Industrial Strategy in November 2017, the Strength in Places Fund will benefit all nations and regions of the UK by enabling them to tap into the world-class research and innovation capability that is spread right across the country. The fund brings together research organisations, businesses, and local leadership on projects that will lead to significant economic impact, high-value job creation and regional growth.

Chief Executive of UKRI, Professor Sir Mark Walport, said: “Our clear vision is to ensure we benefit everyone through knowledge, talent and ideas. Significant support through the Strength in Places Fund will further catalyse economic potential across the country by bringing researchers, industry and regional leadership together to drive sustained growth through world-class research and innovation.”

Each of the UKRI-shortlisted projects, from pharmaceuticals to aerospace and transport to the creative industries, has been awarded up to £50k in early-stage funding, which will allow the development of full-stage bids. Once complete, the bids will go to UKRI in late 2019, with four to eight of the strongest receiving between £10m and £50m each, to carry out projects designed to drive substantial economic growth. 

Notes for editors

The Strength in Places Fund is a cross-council UKRI programme in partnership with the higher education funding bodies of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and the Office for Students.

The Government confirmed in the 2018 Budget that the Strength in Places Fund is to receive a further £120m to bring the fund budget for the period up to 2021/22 to £236m.