Nine pioneering companies based in the North West are the first in the country to benefit from a government digital programme designed to boost UK manufacturing productivity.
The businesses are part of the £20 million Made Smarter Programme, which will help them to grow by adopting new digital technologies.
Based in Greater Manchester, Cheshire, Lancashire and the Liverpool City Region, the nine companies are set to introduce 12 advanced manufacturing methods including artificial intelligence, the Industrial Internet of Things, 3D-printing and robotics.
They include a puppet-maker behind some of TV’s most iconic characters and a 50-year-old family-owned engineering business creating stainless steel containers for nuclear waste.
Donna Edwards, Director of the Made Smarter North West pilot, said: “I am delighted that the Made Smarter pilot has now supported the first successful SME applications.
“Working with business we have found that they are enthusiastic about the benefits of adopting new digital technology. Often, they need funding support, but also the specialist advice and insight to help them select the right approach for their business.
“This is exactly how Made Smarter can and is helping businesses across the region.
“It’s been interesting to see the range of businesses and sub-sectors the successful applicants have come from and the technologies they have selected.
“Made Smarter is relevant for any North West SMEs employing less than 250 staff who make, create, manufacture or engineer and I urge local businesses not to miss this opportunity. Register today for a fully-funded audit of your operations.”
The firms set to benefit from the pilot scheme include: EnviroSystems, based in Preston; Abbey Group, based in Knowsley, DT Engineering North West Limited, based in Widnes; Graham Engineering Ltd (GEL), based in Nelson; T&R Precision Engineering, based in Colne; The Nursery Kitchen, based in Birkenhead; Fusion Implants, based in Liverpool; Mackinnon and Saunders, based in Altrincham; and Applied Nutrition, based in Liverpool.
Up to 600 North West firms will also qualify for more in-depth support including mentoring from senior industry figures, a leadership & management programme specifically designed to support leaders to implement digital change and grants towards the cost of new equipment.
Made Smarter is an investment between government and industry which includes match funding opportunities and the provision of dedicated technical and business support for SMEs adopting digital technology, to support advanced manufacturing. The initiative is the result of the Made Smarter Commission – a partnership between the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the private sector.
Co-chaired by Business Secretary Greg Clark, and CEO of Siemens Juergen Maier, the Commission includes representatives from 17 leading UK manufacturers, technology companies and business representative bodies.
One business set to reap significant benefits from new tech is EnviroSystems, a small, family-owned company which supplies innovative products to farmers from its base in Preston. It wants to develop cutting-edge dosing systems to treat slurry.
EnviroSystems estimates that by harnessing smart technologies including sensors, big data, analytics and machine learning, the company could grow at a rate of 16% per year for the next three years.
Henry Russell, Operations Manager at EnviroSystems, said: “EnviroSystems is a well-established business, but we are conscious that we need to make changes to grow.
“Investing in new digital technology will allow the company to ramp up growth, employ more highly skilled staff and adopt more digital technologies. The Made Smarter programme is the perfect opportunity for us to take that first step.”