There is a drive towards smaller-scale local manufacturing caused by changes in transport and labour costs, the availability of materials and energy, the need for sustainability, the availability and cost of small-scale equipment, and access to information.
The potential for smaller scale manufacture has been made possible by a combination of new technologies, small-scale flexible manufacturing equipment, and new manufacturing processes. In turn, these changes are driving the development of new business models and supply chains, changing dynamics of work and communities, and have immediate implications for industrial and social policy.
Why this area?
EPSRC’s Manufacturing the Future theme and ESRC’s strategic priority for Economic Performance and Sustainable Growth have jointly identified Re-Distributed Manufacturing (RDM) as an area for research investment to help realise the opportunities of RDM for the UK. The complex nature of the changes outlined above, and their implications for UK society, will require contributions from a range of academic disciplines reaching across traditionally separate fields to address complex socio‐technical challenges. Initially a small expert Advisory Group was formed by EPSRC and ESRC, to ensure that current activity in this area were well understood and to guide an interdisciplinary approach to new research investments. The EPSRC and ESRC have a working understanding of RDM as: Technology, systems and strategies that change the economics and organisation of manufacturing, particularly with regard to location and scale. A two day workshop was held, which brought together a range of academics with
an interest in Re-Distributed Manufacturing, to help scope the definition of, and research opportunities around RDM, as well as to explore the most suitable opportunities for RCUK involvement. The 38 delegates represented a range of disciplines including economic geography, industrial sustainability, manufacturing, innovation, process design materials science with representation from BIS and TSB. Building on the workshop outputs, EPSRC and ESRC decided to support a number of networks that would develop further the research agenda for RDM across a number of particular foci, engaging with both relevant academic and user communities.
Following an open call for networks, 10 network applications were selected by a sift panel for interview from 15 submitted to the call. At interview panel six of these networks were selected for funding. The networks were awarded up to £500,000 for up to two years in duration. Each network will:
Bring together a multidisciplinary group of researchers and end-users to address key challenges and opportunities related to RDM, with emphasis on specific theme of the network
Identify current and future research challenges, together with a cohesive multi‐disciplinary vision for tackling these challenges
Support 4-5 feasibility studies (lasting 6-9 months) for activities within the theme of the network
Interact with the other successful networks, including each network hosting a meeting for all RDM networks
Interact closely with relevant user communities to facilitate potential impact
Communicate the identified challenges to the broader community, relevant stakeholders and research funders. The Advisory Group will meet formally with the networks at the six organised meetings and any other appropriate activities, to monitor progress and ensure that any synergy and complementarity between the activities is identified.
For more details on the other networks look follow this button below to the Other Networks page