Digital Catapult starts five-year plan to develop NI smart manufacturing

Manufacturing companies from across Northern Ireland are being invited to take part in a new series of funded workshops to introduce the technologies, tools and techniques of Industry 4.0 in their workplace.

By Claire Cartmill
Wednesday, 3rd August 2022, 7:00 am

The FutureScope Smart Manufacturing Experiment marks the first step in a five-year journey by local nano technology consortium Smart Nano NI to further the development of smart manufacturing in Northern Ireland. The initiative is being delivered by Digital Catapult, the UK authority on advanced digital technology, as part of the consortium.

Participants in Experiment will be able to access a series of free learning sessions to enable them to identify challenges and opportunities affecting their businesses, and gain the necessary skills to work towards the creation of a proposal for a prototype smart technologies solution.

The programme has been made possible by government funding awarded to Smart Nano NI by the UK Research and Innovation’s flagship Strength in Places fund. This research and innovation funding supports significant local economic growth and will accelerate the development of transformative advanced prototyping and smart manufacturing methods in Northern Ireland.

Caragh McMenamin, Achyut Maity, Emma Crothers, Thom Conaty and Brendan Lowry from the Smart Nano NI consortium pictured at the launch of FutureScope Smart Manufacturing Experiment

Brendan Lowry, innovation partner from Digital Catapult, said: “This is a pivotal moment for the development of smart manufacturing in Northern Ireland. With its proud manufacturing heritage, links to the UK and Europe, and a fast-growing innovation ecosystem, Northern Ireland stands out as a frontrunner to maximise the opportunities presented by Industry 4.0.

“Experiment will help to further the process of enabling the manufacturing sector in Northern Ireland to take advantage of the substantial market opportunities offered by smart technologies, as well as the economic and environmental efficiencies which they can offer.”

Digital Catapult is now seeking applications for the initiative from manufacturing businesses from all sectors through an open call which will run until September 13. Applications are open to manufacturers at an early stage in their smart manufacturing journey or those keen to find out more about smart technologies and their uses.

Over the 12 week Experiment programme, participants will learn about the basic principles and functionality of cutting-edge smart technologies such as nanotechnology, blockchain, 5G and augmented reality, as well as their use cases and market potential. Expert technologists from Digital Catapult and Smart Nano NI will support participants with feedback on feasibility and practical requirements to ensure graduates’ outcomes are targeted and actionable.

Brendan Lowry from Digital Catapult, Prof Robert Bowman from Queen's University and Emma Crothers from Causeway Sensors pictured at the launch of FutureScope Smart Manufacturing Experiment

Smart Nano NI will develop game-changing advanced prototyping and smart manufacturing methods to deliver new technologies, supporting innovation-led economic growth, both in the area and nationally, as well as enhancing local research and innovation collaborations.

Speaking on behalf of UK Research and Innovation’s flagship Strength in Places Fund, Dean Cook, Innovate UK director for Place and Levelling Up, said: “FutureScope Smart Manufacturing Experiment, which harnesses expertise from across the Smart Nano NI consortium, will help to drive forward new advances in the field of smart manufacturing.

“It is supported by a £42 million UKRI Strength in Places Fund investment and will catalyse further growth in Northern Ireland’s innovation ecosystem, delivering economic benefits that will be felt across the UK.

“It is one of many examples of how UKRI investment into innovation clusters is supporting the government’s levelling up agenda.”

Thom Conaty, Brendan Lowry and Caragh McMenamin from Digital Catapult pictured at the launch of FutureScope Smart Manufacturing Experiment

On Wednesday, August 17, Digital Catapult will host a live, in-person briefing session on the FutureScope Smart Manufacturing Experiment, at Ormeau Baths, Ormeau Avenue, Belfast at 2.30pm. This event will offer manufacturers the chance to hear from leaders in the smart manufacturing sector and to see what smart manufacturing could do for their business and their clients.

To apply for a free place on FutureScope Smart Manufacturing Experiment, visit

To reserve a place on the FutureScope Smart Manufacturing Experiment interactive briefing session in Belfast search ‘FutureScope Smart Manufacturing Briefing Session’ on Eventbrite.

For further information on Smart Nano NI, visit