11 Aug 2022

Survey reveals manufacturers increasingly looking to partner with start-ups

Seventy three percent of manufacturing leaders want to collaborate with start-ups as part of their long-term business strategy according to a new survey by Digital Catapult.

The survey, which was carried out among 100 UK manufacturing leaders, also highlighted that 82% believed that working with start-ups will help them accelerate digital transformation objectives, admitting that start-ups can give them access to creativity and skills they do not currently possess in-house.

However, only a quarter said collaborating with start-up businesses to experiment with technologies is a priority in the next 12 months, despite 92% of those who have already worked with a start-up saying they would do so again. Top barriers to manufacturing leaders working with start-ups included a fear of failure, and a lack of time.

When it comes to digital transformation more generally, a third listed risk of business disruption as a barrier. With external tremors showing no promise of easing, the research exposes how risk-averse manufacturers could miss out on key opportunities to innovate and absorb learnings from the more agile start-up community in the short-term.

These survey results come as Digital Catapult’s 12-month Made Smarter Technology Accelerator concludes, having resulted in four startup-led minimum viable products (MVPs) developed in record time for industry giants BAE Systems, Babcock International Group, Northumbrian Water Group and Safran Landing Systems.

Jeremy Silver, Digital Catapult CEO said: “As the impact of the pandemic continues to disrupt supply chains around the world, heading into 2022, manufacturing leaders are looking to find new ways to weather the storm and at the same time keep pace with the speed of digital technology development, which is increasing competition globally.

“Many manufacturing heavyweights are not making collaboration with innovative early-stage companies a priority in the next year, despite recognising the potential benefits. Our survey suggests that there is a danger that UK companies will miss out on the opportunity to be early adopters of new technologies, and learn from start-ups’ creativity, innovation and agility.

“The Made Smarter Technology Accelerator provides hard evidence of what can be achieved by open innovation programmes; successful, real-world solutions delivered against the clock to drive real change for manufacturing giants.”

Part of the Made Smarter programme, the Made Smarter Technology Accelerator sees manufacturing titans pair up with pioneering start-ups – to develop real-world innovations tackling major challenges. This year’s programme has supported 14 start-ups in total, who were given a share of nearly £700,000.

In the new research, a third of manufacturers said Brexit has been a barrier to them taking part in open innovation – underscoring the importance of government-backed open innovation programmes like this. At its core, the programme plays a role in revolutionising the industrial operations of manufacturing businesses, boosting productivity and resilience while allowing the UK to retain its leading position on the world stage.

Four MVPs developed through the course of the programme were exhibited yesterday afternoon at a showcase event which brought the programme to a rousing conclusion – attended virtually by the challenge owners, sponsors including Verizon Business and Software AG, and industry representatives.

Company info: Digital Catapault