24 Jul 2024

UK Digital Twin Centre announced for Belfast

UK Digital Twin Centre Director at Digital Catapult, Deborah Colville

Belfast Region City Deal and Innovate UK have announced a £37.6m investment in the UK Digital Twin Centre, a centre of excellence that will revolutionise how industries develop products, services and systems across the UK. Led by Digital Catapult, the Centre has been endorsed by UK industry, launching with co-investment from three major industry partners: Thales UK, Spirit AeroSystems and Artemis Technologies.

Enabled by a core investment from Innovate UK into this new world-class Centre and the associated programmes, the partners will deliver an initial six use cases to demonstrate the potential of digital twins in transforming the maritime, aerospace and defence sectors. In a step-change from traditional research and innovation centres, the UK Digital Twin Centre aims to accelerate industry’s adoption of digital twins through providing access to cutting edge technologies, reducing the costs of producing a digital twin and developing skills in the workforce – therefore removing key barriers businesses face. The Centre will also provide a collaborative space for industry, academia and the public sector to foster cross-sector innovation.

Increasingly being adopted across global industry, digital twins are virtual models of a physical object or system which can be informed by streamed data from a real-world version or environment. The digital twin can provide unique capabilities including rapid proto-typing and real-world control mechanisms, enabling businesses to make smarter decisions, achieve better outcomes, shortening time to market, reducing costs and lowering emissions.

The £15m of funding from the Belfast Region City Deal will help support core research and the building of skills and capability. This investment will support the region’s ambition to build innovation and digital capability, increase productivity, support reaching net zero targets and create more and better jobs. The Centre has committed to contributing 230 new jobs in the manufacturing sector across the UK, and to generate £61m for the local economy in Northern Ireland by 2033.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Chris Heaton-Harris said: “This is an ambitious project that will bring exciting opportunities for collaboration and accelerate the fantastic transformation Belfast’s digital sector is already witnessing. The UK Government’s £350 million investment into the Belfast Region City Deal will be used to support this project and ensure that we continue to make good progress across the City and Growth Deal programme, bringing even more prosperity to Northern Ireland, and ensuring it is the best place in the world to invest. I look forward to visiting the new centre once it is open and hearing more about the fantastic opportunities it will bring to Belfast and Northern Ireland more widely.”

Economy Minister, Conor Murphy, said: “Our region is well positioned and ready to maximise the opportunities this investment will bring while also helping deliver on my economic priorities of creating good jobs, increasing productivity, and accelerating net zero ambitions. The Centre will assist in lowering the barriers for industry to develop digital twins, bringing the benefits of reduced costs, faster time to market and improving the skills of the advanced manufacturing workforce.”

To enable digital twins to be more accessible, better understood, more easily developed, and more meaningfully applied, the UK Digital Twin Centre will run a series of programmes for all levels of industry – from SMEs to large enterprises – to drive innovation and realise new value.

Indro Mukerjee, CEO at Innovate UK said: “As the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK works to support growth and increased productivity across the UK through our portfolio of products and services. The Innovate UK Catapult Network provides a unique combination of world-class expertise and facilities, connecting research excellence with business impact. This new Digital Catapult investment will accelerate industry adoption of digital twins, a key component of Cyber-Physical Infrastructure, delivering support for business innovation across the UK.”

UK Digital Twin Centre Director at Digital Catapult, Deborah Colville, added: “Today’s announcement is a pivotal moment in realising the real-world value of Digital Twins for the UK. The Centre will give businesses across the UK access to the expertise, technology and resources necessary to accelerate the adoption of Digital Twins to reduce design and manufacturing costs, help meet net zero targets and drive competitive advantage globally.”

The UK Digital Twin Centre will open later this year in Belfast. Businesses can find out more information on the Centre at digicat.org.uk/UKDigitalTwinCentre

Company info: Digital Catapault