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SMEs invested £5.4m in first year of Made Smarter programme

04 March, 2020

In the first year of the Made Smarter North West pilot, 300 small and medium-sized manufacturers have have invested £5.4m in new technologies, aided by £1.6m of funding. The pilot is working with SMEs in North West England, offering them impartial advice, and helping them introduce digital tools and technologies to boost their productivity and growth.

More than 60 of the businesses in the pilot have secured funding. This is predicted to deliver an extra £52m in GVA (gross value added) to the region’s economy over the coming three years. Almost 800 businesses have approached the pilot for support.

The SMEs are developing projects involving technologies such as data analytics, AI (artificial intelligence), AR (augmented reality), IIoT (industrial Internet of Things), 3D printing and robotics. Implementing these has resulted in benefits such as improved productivity and revenues, increased exports, job creation, new skills for workforces, enhanced integration with supply chains, and reduced environmental impact.

For example, the Liverpool-based engineering business Abbey Group, which has invested in real-time machine monitoring and AI planning, is expecting a 22% increase in turnover, a 41% rise in profits, and 30 new jobs by 2022.

MSM MD Michael Pedley: without Made Smarter support the company would not have committed to an advanced level of simulation

And Manchester-based MSM Aerospace Fabricators is predicting 20% growth after Made Smarter helped it to adopt digital twin technology to redesign its factory and unlock production and capacity planning.

“The truth is that without Made Smarter support we wouldn’t have committed to such an advanced level of simulation,” says MSM’s MD, Michael Pedley. “Our plan was always focussed on design as a discrete project. This extra investment means we get maximum value from the technology in the future. It also means that we could do it immediately rather than delaying – propelling us forward by years.”

“It’s clear that the SMEs need the specialist advice and insight to help them select the right approach for their business, how much to invest and which technologies will bring the greatest benefits,” comments Donna Edwards, programme director of the Made Smarter North West pilot. “The interest we have received in the first year has been incredible.”

The programme is targeting North West SMEs employing fewer than 250 people, that make, create, manufacture or engineer. The £20m pilot programme was launched in November 2018 and runs until March 2021.

The pilot is being overseen by the Made Smarter Commission – a partnership between the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and industry leaders.

“When we launched Made Smarter in November 2018 our ambition was to kickstart a new industrial revolution for the manufacturing sector and turn the UK into a world leader in digital technologies,” says Juergen Maier, former CEO of Siemens and co-chair of the commission. “I am thrilled that so many manufacturers in the North West have grasped what I believe is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to boost productivity, create high value and highly paid jobs of the future. Our task now is to scale this up and see what other regions can learn from the great work that’s already being done here.”

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