Simon Coward appointed Director of SMDH

Simon Coward appointed as Director of SMDH


Simon Coward has been appointed to the role of Director at the Smart Manufacturing Data Hub in Ulster University.

Simon brings a wealth of experience and nearly 30 years of insights in manufacturing to the role of Director of the Smart Manufacturing Data Hub (SMDH). As a graduate Chemical Engineer, Simon worked in the oil/gas, chemicals and nuclear industries in the UK and Italy, and following further training (at Cranfield University) set up and grew manufacturing businesses supplying the construction, FMCG and automotive sectors.

Moving from the private sector to local government, Simon led the growth of engineering and manufacturing clusters in East Anglia – including building incubation and growth in space, creating sector networks and local manufacturing groups, and developing business support programmes.


Simon previously worked at Innovate UK as the Innovation Lead – Manufacturing Made Smarter and supported the Made Smarter Innovation Challenge that encouraged industrial digital innovation through interventions such as the Smart Factory and Digital Supply Chains Innovation Hubs, as well as in the areas of Global, Standardisation & Interoperability and Skills.

Simon has delivered a range of outstanding innovations and tangible outputs for the UK Manufacturing and Engineering sector during the course of his career.  This includes the development of Norfolk County Council’s Innovation Hub, Hethel Innovation Centre which helped to generate over 170 engineering startups and created over 2000 high skilled jobs, in the UK manufacturing industry. This is just one of Simon’s career highlights in the UK manufacturing industry.

Simon managed the Engineering & Manufacturing Network, the Creative Digital Business Incubator in East Anglia and developed and managed a range of Business and Community Support Programs, including enterprise, innovation, productivity, sustainability and competitiveness.


The Smart Manufacturing Data Hub will assist UK manufacturing businesses to adopt new data driven technologies.  As SMDH Director, Simon will lead the Smart Manufacturing Data Hub to help 10,000 businesses in the UK accelerate the development of digital technologies.  Businesses in sectors spanning food and drink, aerospace and many more will be supported to develop, test and adopt the latest data-driven technologies.

The Smart Manufacturing Data Hub will support businesses with an online manufacturing data exchange platform that will enable companies to submit their manufacturing data and receive recommendations. In return, the platform can help businesses to improve their products and processes. The Smart Manufacturing Data Hub is supported by a consortium of partners including:

Ulster University, Cambridge University, D2N2, Manufacturing NI, The DataLab – Innovation Centre, STFC Hartree Centre, Energy Systems Catapult, High Value Manufacturing Catapult, ByzGen, Scottish Engineering, Industry Wales, University of Dundee and MEGA (Manufacturing and Engineering Growth and Advancement).

Simon Coward, new Director for the Smart Manufacturing Data Hub says:

I’m really excited to be able to play a part in building and delivering the Smart Manufacturing Data Hub working with truly innovative partners. From my experience in setting up and operating manufacturing businesses, I believe SMDH will be a valuable hub and resource for supporting businesses addressing their challenges through digitalisation and realising the power of shared data.

The Smart Manufacturing Data Hub is funded by UKRI and nearly 10,000 manufacturers are expected to benefit from the hub and 13,000 jobs will be supported, helping to boost economic growth and level up regions across the UK.  The hub will be backed by £20 million of government funds and £30 million of business co-investment.  A Digital Innovation fund will provide £5million in grants to businesses to help them make critically important changes using the adoption of data driven technologies.

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