Manufacturing pros increasingly looking to startups for help innovating

Manufacturers are increasingly looking to partner with startups to stimulate innovation, with nearly three quarters of manufacturing leaders (73%) saying that collaborating with startups is part of their long-term business strategy.

In a Digital Catapult survey carried out amongst 100 UK manufacturing leaders, 82% said that working with startups will help them accelerate digital transformation objectives, admitting that startups can give them access to creativity and skills they do not currently possess in-house.

However, only a quarter said collaborating with startup businesses to experiment with technologies is a priority in the next 12 months, despite 92% of those who have already worked with a startup saying they would do so again. Top barriers to manufacturing leaders working with startups 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 startup 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 startups’ creativity, innovation and agility.”