Competition encourages supply chain innovation

23 August 2011

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23 August 2011 | Adam Leach

The Technology Strategy Board (TSB) has launched an initiative designed to prompt businesses to work with their supply chains to reduce their reliance on particular raw materials.

By setting up the £4.5 million research and development fund, TSB – part of the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills – aims to help businesses encourage innovation within the supply chain and reduce reliance on key raw materials or lessen impact on the environment.

“The new products and services proposed should have a reduced environmental impact compared to current alternatives, and/or should be less dependent on the use of strategic materials,” said a statement.

Last week, a report by The Hackett Group claimed that buyers are unprepared for rising inflation and commodity prices. Michel Janssen, chief research officer, said: “Like the proverbial deer in the headlights, many companies see the approaching danger, but don’t know how to get out of the way.”

TSB outlined four approaches and said it wants all entrants to cover at least one. These are: the substitution of materials for more environmentally friendly alternatives; recycling, remanufacture or reuse of materials; decreasing the total mass of material used in a single unit; and reducing the amount of energy used in production.

Businesses can apply for up to £500,000 funding for initiatives that take a maximum of two years to fully develop. While led by a particular business, all initiatives should involve collaboration throughout the supply chain.

The competition will open for entries on 3 October and a networking event will be held on 20 September in London to enable participants to meet and form work groups or consortia to develop initiatives. There is also an online group for entrants to share information. The group can be found here.

Meanwhile, manufacturers are devoting more time to developing procurement strategies, including seeking different sourcing options, renegotiating contracts and bulk purchasing. In a report by EEF, the manufacturers’ organisation, nearly two thirds of the 100 manufacturers surveyed said they have sought other sourcing options to cope with rising commodity prices.

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