Industry leaders and academics have hailed AIMday Manufacturing a great success after they came together to tackle business challenges and build partnerships.
AIMday Manufacturing matched 14 representatives of 10 companies with 22 academics. During a series of one-hour workshops, questions posed in advance by the companies were addressed by researchers with expertise in the issues put forward.
The event is one of a series of AIMdays (Academic Industry Meeting days) being hosted by Edinburgh Innovations at the University of Edinburgh.
“I’m delighted – it was an excellent use of eight hours of my week,” said Joe Doogan, Director, Nuclear, at the engineering services giant Babcock International.
There were representatives of large and small companies spanning the broad manufacturing arena, from food and drink to heavy engineering. Challenges put forward included questions about 3D printing in steel and starch blends in gluten-free baking.
Between the sessions, there was a palpable buzz surrounding the potential to create formal partnerships between the University and industry that could address companies’ needs.
“We have several significant business-critical technical issues that – if we get the alchemy right – the university will be able to support,” said Babcock’s Doogan. “As we build upon our world class manufacturing capability, there are several areas of areas of mutual benefit.”
Mariella Barra, Senior Technology Platform Technologist at Premier Foods, said: “The format worked really well. We had time to initiate the questions, then go through them with the academics. We now have a pile of suggestions and ideas that we need to think about.”
From feasibility to funding
Dr Matthew Reeves, of the Edinburgh Complex Fluids Partnership, said: “The questions are really relevant to the science we do, and the different academics have different angles to offer. It’s an opportunity to see where your fundamental science can be applied in a real-world context.”
Dr Reeves said a variety of lasting partnerships between industry and the University can arise from such meetings. “Usually we would start with a small scale feasibility study, then if something comes of that we can develop a proposal for a bigger project, and go to funding sources to cover costs. We might place research students with a company, or arrange secondments.”
Edinburgh Innovations will host AIMday Data on 15 March, and subsequent AIMdays are planned in 2018 in the areas of complex fluids, energy and digital manufacturing. AIMday is an international franchise established by Uppsala University in Sweden in 2008.
Photograph: Callum Bennetts/Maverick Photo Agency