£8 million in SME funding announced through new government programme

A new £8 million government fund has been announced for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to help them to modernise and go digital, with the hope that this will create new jobs.

The funding is part of the government’s Made Smarter Adoption programme, and will support up to 1,000 small and medium sized manufacturers across the North West, North East, Yorkshire and the Humber and the West Midlands regions to adopt digital technology. A pilot of the programme launched in January 2019 in the North West and has already worked with more than 1,000 firms and directly supported over 500 businesses to use digital technology to overcome challenges or access opportunities to grow their business.

The additional funding announced yesterday will allow businesses in the North West to continue to access support and, starting in the coming months, for more manufacturers across other parts of England do the same.

The Bury-based Black Pudding Company is already using support from Made Smarter to help create the world’s first smart black pudding factory by using automation and digital tools to increase product quality and substantially reduce waste. Meanwhile, Altrincham-based Mackinnon and Saunders, the stop-motion animators who worked on Postman Pat and collaborated with Hollywood director Tim Burton, have received support to adopt digital technology such as 3D printing to keep up with bigger, global rivals.

Minister for Investment, Lord Grimstone, said:

“The proof is in the pudding and for the companies that have adopted the latest digital technology they are already reaping the rewards.

To help level up the country, we want to ensure businesses have the right tools for the job so that they can build back better and greener from the pandemic.”

By supporting adoption of industrial digital technology, such as robotics and automation, additive manufacturing or the Internet of Things, the programme can help level up regions by enabling manufacturers to increase their productivity, create high-skilled well-paid jobs and reduce their emissions.

Chairman, Accenture UK & Ireland, and Made Smarter Commissioner, Olly Benzecry, said:

“Having been actively involved in the North West pilot we have seen the power of this scheme to help a broad range of manufacturers exploit industrial digitalisation to increase productivity and employment. It is great to see this approach now being made available more nationally, building on the strong foundation developed and proven in the North West over the past 2 years.”

Made Smarter Commissioner and Managing Director of ATEC Engineering Solutions in Salford, Andrea Hough OBE, said:

“This support plays a vital role in helping manufacturing SMEs like mine understand the advantages of adopting digital technology. My own firm has seen first hand the importance of digitalisation.

I have supported the pilot programme in the North West since it launched and am pleased that its work will continue and will be rolled out to three new regions to help even more businesses benefit from technology.”

Innovation Lead for the West Midlands Combined Authority, Jamie Elliott, said:

“This funding is a step in the right direction. We have 14,500 SME manufacturers in the West Midlands many of which would benefit from access to new technologies, which would both boost the region’s economy, help create skilled jobs and contribute towards a cleaner, greener West Midlands.”

The government’s Made Smarter Adoption programme includes free impartial, expert advice, funded digital internships, access to specialised leadership and management training, as well as match funding for digital transformation projects.