Hexagon’s Manufacturing Intelligence Natalie Tellis-James attended the Sixth Sense Summit this year – read her insights below.

Walking into London’s CodeNode for the Sixth Sense summit, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Although we’ve never promoted giving the start-ups a cash prize, I still half expected to see Milan Kocic, Head of the Sixth Sense programme, standing on stage holding a supersized cheque, but that couldn’t be further from what happened.

I arrived at 14:30. The main event wasn’t due to start for another hour, but the room was already filling up, humming with conversation. Each of the eight start-ups had a small stand with literature and products, so I walked around to try to get myself more familiar with what was to come. The room we were in was surrounded by impressive glass offices, each filled with people deep in discussion. Round tables were underway, covering a mix of topics like improving the representation of women in manufacturing and supporting CSR initiatives in a challenging climate. The topic of sustainability featured heavily throughout the day. Each cohort is challenged with a specific topic at the start of the programme, for cohort three this was “Building a sustainable manufacturing future” and “Smart digital reality for collaborative manufacturing.”

Time for the main event.

I got myself seated and awaited the arrival of the panel of judges, familiar faces from across Hexagon, hand-selected because they know our business and solutions offering inside out. Lights, camera, action! Each of the cohorts had four minutes to pitch their idea to the judges. Four minutes!! Just about enough time to make a cup of tea in my household. Each of the eight told their story, the gap in the market they could fill and how our support can help them. Again, not talking about money – the winner is promised our time, our resources, our knowledge base – all more valuable than a single cash sum.

What stuck out to me during each of the eight pitches is how well-connected we already were. It felt like we were already working with the solutions, there was a clear connection between what our division stands for, what it’s trying to achieve and the mechanics we use to do so. It felt like they were part of us, progressing our message and highlighting real-life impacts for our customers. I sat listening, glad I wasn’t on the judging panel with the impossible task of choosing one company to continue a relationship with. In fact, this seems it wasn’t a possibility for the panel either, who at the end of the day announced joint winners Zaptic and Flexxbotics and runner-up Acerta. This wasn’t the only surprise for the day as Milan took to the stage to announce a new Global Partnership with Hexagon and GelSight, Winner of Sixth Sense cohort two, further proving the opportunities for winners are endless.

So what’s next?

The cohort winners will have access to our extensive resources, global footprint and our comprehensive products and solutions to help them expand both their offerings and their opportunities. They will also feature on our Nexus platform, giving visibility of their solutions to companies far beyond just us.

“Sixth Sense with Hexagon has been a tremendously valuable experience, and we’re thrilled to be selected as the Industrie 4.0 manufacturing robotics software winner of the program,”- Tyler Bouchard, Co-founder & CEO at Flexxbotics. “We believe that the fleets of robots in the smart factory will run lights-out production, and that integrated inspection will be the critical ‘eyes & ears’ of autonomous manufacturing.”

“It’s an honor to be selected as a winner for Sixth Sense, and we’re thankful for the invaluable guidance and support we’ve received,” -Sandy Reid, Co-founder and CCO at Zaptic. “As knowledge and skill gaps continue to widen, manufacturers desperately need a more efficient way to secure and build capability in the workforce. Partnering with Hexagon will allow us to meet this need at scale with Zaptic’s AI-guided connected worker solution integrated with Hexagon products and service, delivering guided machine operation, troubleshooting, and maintenance to end users.”

I ended the day with a true sense of excitement. As a successful, global company, it would be easy to run these programmes with a cash prize and call it a day – offering a handout to the little guy that actually takes little effort from ourselves. But instead, we’re nurturing and mentoring them for the better of our industry, our personal offerings and for the better for the companies who are just getting started. It left me with a sense of accomplishment (although I had no part to play), knowing that I work for a company who’s not above helping out, who doesn’t sit on it’s pedestal with an old way of thinking but actively encourages others to see the light through the trees.