Future of British Manufacturing

The Digital Catalyst Programme

Right now, Digital Catalysts are helping customers transform the way they design, make and sell their products, improve collaboration and drive innovation.

What is the Digital Catalyst Programme?

A Digital Catalyst is a young individual who can be placed into your business for a total of 80 hours, to bring a fresh perspective to a design or manufacturing challenge you may be facing today. They are handpicked from leading UK universities for their high levels of digital awareness, creativity, design thinking as well as their skills in computer-aided design and manufacturing.

Closing the Skills Gap

Did you know 65% of UK businesses see a digital skills shortfall as one of the most significant challenges facing their company in 2021? This is just one of the many reasons why having an Autodesk Digital Catalyst can help your business close that skills gap and accelerate its digital transformation. In this recent fireside chat, we spoke with several of our Autodesk customers – alongside their Digital Catalysts – to discover how they've been using the programme to close their businesses digital skills gap.

Meet some of our Digital Catalysts

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Umar Hossain

MEng, PhD Student Imperial College

My placement with CP Cases has helped me understand how to effect change in a sustainable way, which I think every SME is faced with right now.

Oliver Hopkinson

MEng, Mechanical Engineering University of Bath

Having worked on a real project for Hosokawa, that delivered real value to their business, I feel far more prepared for a career in this industry.

James Tetlow

MEng, Mechanical Engineering University of Exeter

Being given the responsibility to improve the operational efficiency at a fast-paced manufacturing company like Warren Services has been extremely rewarding.

Gregoire Saul

BSc Product Design & Technology Loughborough University

I would really recommend the Digital Catalyst Programme to any other students. It’s a great way to build your confidence and experience within a Design & Manufacturing workplace.

Autodesk Digital Catalyst Case Studies

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  • CP Cases

    Learn how CP Cases, a UK Design & Manufacturing SME worked with a Digital Catalyst, to improve a process that took them 180 minutes down to just 15 minutes.

  • Hosokawa Micron

    Working with Oliver, Hosokawa Micron digitalized a process, which resulted in a 4-6 week improvement on delivery times.

  • Warren Services

    Warren Services has identified how to cut their production planning cycle in half, with no loss in quality or accuracy.

  • Playdale Playgrounds Ltd.

    The successful implementation of the project will give Playdale Playgrounds a 30% uplift in their design productivity, which in turn will give them a six-figure saving over the next few years.

How Does it Work?

Read answers to our frequently asked questions below.

It all starts with a project brief, supplied by you which Autodesk will share with our team of registered Digital Catalysts. We will then forward the CV of any Catalyst who has expressed an interest in your project, has a suitable skill set and time to work on your project. If you decide there is a good fit, you can agree a start date and the project can begin. Autodesk will stay in contact with both you and your Digital Catalyst to ensure everything is running smoothly.

Autodesk will send you a project brief template on request.

Whilst Autodesk cannot insist that Digital Catalysts get paid, we strongly encourage you to offer them a fair market rate in exchange for their time and expertise. This will increase your chances of attracting the best talent. 

As a reference point the current UK minimum wage is £9 per hour which, considering the potential value that a Digital Catalyst can bring to an organisation is incredible value. At the very least we’d expect any reasonable out of pocket expenses incurred by the Catalyst to be covered.

In many cases local grant funding may be available to cover this cost from organisations like the Local Enterprise Partnerships or Growth Hubs.

Autodesk is heavily invested in preparing the next generation of professionals to enter the design and manufacturing industry and close the skills gap. To do this we must simplify and accelerate the way in which great students connect with great companies who need to design, make and sell better products, but lack the digital skills to do so. The Digital Catalyst Program aims to address this challenge.

Unlike traditional university placements, Digital Catalysts projects last a maximum of 80 hours and can be delivered flexibly in and around their full-time studies. As part of the project scope you need to agree the volume and frequency of project time that works best. For example, 1 hour per week, a continuous 80 hours or anything in between.

Autodesk wants to enable the industry to do more with less by challenging the traditional ways of problem solving. We believe that given the right type of project, and the use of cloud based, collaborative design & manufacturing tools it is possible for a Digital Catalyst to research, develop and present solutions within that time frame that our customers can then move forwards with. 

Unlike traditional university schemes, Digital Catalyst projects can be done at any time in the year. We believe this shorter-term flexible approach offers our customers a greater value whilst offering the Digital Catalysts an enriched industry experience whilst studying.

One of the goals of the Digital Catalyst program is do drive productivity using digital collaboration tools, so we expect that a reasonable part of the work will likely be done remotely, with visits to your premises only being carried out when necessary for example at the start of the project to “onboard” the catalyst and get them up to speed. What we’d ask is that if your Digital Catalyst does visit your premises, you provide a safe working environment for them, with the appropriate liability cover in place. Working remotely also helps the Catalyst to fit the project in more flexibly around their studies and gives then a level of autonomy.

You must be a UK based design and/or manufacturing business to be eligible and have a current design or manufacturing challenge that you feel can be solved through the application of digital technologies. The challenge must demonstrate the potential to transform the way you design and make your products. For that reason, cad operator or data entry level projects will not be eligible.

The one thing we do expect from both SME and Digital Catalyst is to agree to talk about their experience of working together as a form of case study which Autodesk can share with the wider community. This may range from a simple written statement or a short video testimonial. Any promotional materials created will be done with full involvement and consent of both the SME and Digital Catalyst and will respect any potentially commercially sensitive or confidential aspects of the company or project. 

We strive to identify and match you with Digital Catalysts with the right skills and capabilities, however, if you are not happy with your current placement please reach out to us at digital.catalyst.uki@autodesk.com and we will shortly be in touch.


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“Here at Manchester Metropolitan University, we are not just dipping our toes in the waters of digitalisation, we are diving in headfirst. Our overwhelming aim is to enable genuine change within British design & manufacturing industry which requires placing talented people with the right skills and mind-set to challenge the status quo and demonstrate the art of the possible. The Autodesk Digital Catalyst Programme is the perfect vehicle to connect our talent with British industry."

Craig Banks
Manchester Metropolitan University


“Digital Catalysts are a powerful way to validate how digital can be applied in traditional engineering environments. We were amazed at Oliver’s ability, to learn a new technology, apply it and get an initial result within 4 days. Working in this way also provides the Digital Catalyst with a real life experience, potentially leading to them being more employable when they graduate."

Adam Harper
Product Manager (High Containment)
Hosokawa Micron

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