By working together, EEF and its Affiliate Partners are both better placed to deliver a stronger industrial sector for the UK. Tim Minshall, Dr John C Taylor Professor of Innovation & Head of the Institute for Manufacturing (IfM) explains more about the organisation and the Affiliate Partnership with EEF.
What does the IfM do?
The Institute for Manufacturing (IfM) is part of the University of Cambridge’s Department of Engineering.
We work across education, research and practice, in order to provide thought leadership and develop innovative research to address real industrial problems. To do this, we collaborate with businesses, with other universities, and with government, in order to achieve meaningful impact from our work.
Our research covers technology, management and policy, and spans from the molecular level in nanotechnology for manufacturing processes, right up through manufacturing systems, organisational systems, to supply chains, global infrastructures, and sustainability.
Through our knowledge transfer arm, ECS (Education and Consultancy Services), we work with organisations to help them apply our cutting edge research in practice.
We also have education at our heart, with undergraduate and MPhil engineering programmes that have a strong emphasis on industry placements. We support numerous PhD students working within our research groups.
What does the IfM do for the manufacturing industry?
Connecting research and industrial practice has always been central to our approach. We work closely with businesses across many sectors, from SMEs to multinational corporations. Our knowledge transfer activities include courses and conferences, in-company workshops, professional development, and consulting. These enable research-based innovations to be applied in practice to help solve real business problems.
We also work with collaboratively with industry consortia, in a two-way process to inform research as well as support its practical business application. For example, our pre-competitive consortium on digital supply chains provides two-way collaboration between research and practice to improve outcomes across complex supply chain networks.
At the IfM, we have identified four overarching themes around which much of our research work is focused: digital, skills, SMEs and healthcare. We are identifying and solving real world problems relating to these themes, and work in close partnership with industry to do so.
Why has the IfM decided to partner with EEF?
The two organisations have closely aligned objectives and shared values, both working to promote UK manufacturing organisations. As an Affiliate Partner, the IfM will be collaborating with EEF on a range of activities, including events, resources and input on government policy.
The partnership also allows us to extend the networks available to members of both organisations.
EEF’s Problem Solving Network provides an excellent online community for discussing practical solutions to real world business challenges. IfM researchers will be contributing expertise to the forums on the network, and we encourage our members to contribute, share knowledge and tap into industry experience.
What opportunities does this partnership hold?
We hope to co-host events on topics of importance to UK manufacturers, with the ability to draw on expertise from EEF economists and IfM researchers. Working with other affiliate partners and industry organisations and the academic community, these can further strengthen networking potential and extend industry reach, adding value for members.
Both the IfM and EEF are proactively working with government bodies to provide expertise and knowledge for policy makers. Input from members of both organisations helps to inform this, and we are keen to facilitate open discussion through events, surveys and networks.
What does the IfM think the future holds for the industry?
There is a changing context for manufacturing in the UK, driven by a number of trends including Industry 4.0 and disruptive technologies, our ageing society, Brexit, and the need for more sustainable growth.
Ensuring we develop the skills needed for the future is a key challenge. Support through the education system to equip the future workforce with the adaptability to adopt new technologies, often as yet unimagined, is essential. In addition, learning and training must be extended across working life if we are to take advantage of opportunities in a rapidly changing landscape.
We see our role as providing thought leadership to help us all navigate this unfolding story, and to understand how emerging technologies and ideas can best serve us for manufacturing a better world.