University of Sheffield spearheads training for future digital engineers

The University of Sheffield has received a portion of the largest investment in engineering doctoral skills in the UK to spearhead the training of the next wave of engineers.

These engineers will possess advanced skills in digital manufacturing, a sector acknowledged as crucial for enhancing productivity across the UK.

Despite being a pivotal factor in enhancing productivity, digital technologies face substantial integration challenges within the UK’s manufacturing sector and broader economy. To counter these challenges, the University of Sheffield is set to launch a new Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT). This centre will collaborate closely with industry partners to cultivate engineers who are proficient in key areas of industrial demand.

Furthermore, the university will contribute to nine additional CDTs, which aim to tackle significant challenges in sectors deemed critical for national interest. These sectors include energy, infrastructure, materials, manufacturing assembly and machining, medicines, and semiconductors. This initiative is expected to produce engineers with premium skills in digital manufacturing, thereby propelling the UK’s productivity.

The University of Sheffield’s initiative comes as part of the UK’s unprecedented investment in the doctoral skills of engineering and physical sciences, which amounts to over £1 billion. This investment was announced by the Science, Innovation and Technology Secretary, Michelle Donelan. The newly established CDT at Sheffield will be led by the Faculty of Engineering, which is renowned for housing one of the UK’s largest cohorts of undergraduate engineering and computer science students. The university’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), a leader in global manufacturing research, will also play a significant role in the CDT’s operations.

The UK’s economic growth has been lagging behind that of Europe and North America, attributed partly to the advanced manufacturing sector’s productivity and skills gaps.

The CDT at Sheffield aims to mitigate these issues by equipping students with digital skills tailored to overcome four primary productivity challenges in manufacturing: sustainability, speed, quality, and flexibility. By training engineers in collaboration with industrial partners, the CDT ensures that graduates are well-versed in areas of critical industrial need, aiming for a more diverse manufacturing workforce.

Professor Neil Sims, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Sheffield and leader of the CDT, expressed excitement about leading the initiative in collaboration with the AMRC. He highlighted the potential of digital engineering to enhance productivity and sustainability within the UK’s high-value manufacturing sector. According to Professor Sims, the collaboration between the Faculty of Engineering and the AMRC provides a solid foundation for the centre, promising a unique experience for students who will work at the forefront of the UK’s manufacturing activities.

Professor David Curtis, Professor of Subtractive Manufacturing at the AMRC, also praised the EPSRC’s support and the contributions from industrial partners. He underscored the significance of expanding the focus to include machining, assembly, and digital engineering, building on over two decades of innovation at the AMRC. Curtis emphasized the importance of addressing the Net Zero challenge and the potential for manufacturing innovation, particularly in sectors like aerospace that are poised for significant product disruptions.

In addition to leading the ‘Machining, Assembly and Digital Engineering for Manufacturing’ CDT, the University of Sheffield is also involved in nine other new CDTs that address various areas of national importance. These collaborations highlight Sheffield’s role as a leading institution in engineering research and education, working closely with industry to advance knowledge and address global challenges. The initiative promises to have a profound impact on the careers of students, the UK’s industrial sector, and the economy at large, paving the way for the next generation of engineers to contribute to solving some of the world’s most pressing challenges.