Made Smarter, a pioneering programme helping SME manufacturers in the North West access technology and digital skills, will continue as part of government plans to roll out the initiative nationally.
Launched in 2019, Made Smarter has engaged with 2,500 manufacturers and funded 334 technology projects, which are forecast to create 1,550 jobs, upskill 2,772 existing roles, and increase North West GVA by £242m.
The successful blueprint has since inspired Made Smarter adoption programmes in the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber, the West Midlands, East Midlands, and West of England.
Now the government has committed to expanding the programme to all nine English regions in 2025-26 before working with Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland from 2026-27.
Hundreds of thousands more SME manufacturers will get access to technology advice, leadership, and skills training, as well as grant funding for digital internships and technology projects.
The commitment, alongside plans for £4.5 billion in funding for British manufacturing, will also boost productivity, growth, and decarbonisation for SME manufacturers across the country.
The announcement coincides with the publication of a new report by Made Smarter. ‘Delivering Impact: How Made Smarter Inspires Digital Transformation’ outlines the impact of the adoption model and proposes ways to make it even better.
Brian Holliday, co-chair of the Made Smarter Commission and MD of Siemens Digital Industries, said: “This announcement by the Treasury clearly demonstrates that UK manufacturing matters. It represents a tremendous investment boost for our makers that will enable the confidence to invest in innovation, productivity, and sustainability.
“Key sectors benefit but so does the long tail of small and medium firms which is really important to directly address our recent challenges of weak overall productivity and investment.
“I believe the business benefits of digitalisation are now clear, while being an enabler for industrial decarbonisation too – the package of measures announced in bolstering Made Smarter, targeted regulatory reform and sector support, along with our world-class Catapults and Universities now makes the UK one of the best countries on the planet to sustainably design, make and export goods.”
Donna Edwards, director of Made Smarter’s North West adoption programme, said: “I am delighted that the Government has recognised the extraordinary impact that Made Smarter’s adoption programme is having on digitalisation of SME businesses.
“Over the last four years we have worked tirelessly to help North West makers to start their digital journey by providing them with specialist advice to help them select the right approach, level of investment and tools for their business. The programme has proven the value technology and digital skills can bring to the manufacturing sector.
“While we await further details on the funding package, the commitment to a national roll-out is a huge vote of confidence in the contribution SMEs make to UK manufacturing. It will undoubtedly turbo charge the digital transformation of the sector.”
Paul McLaren, chair of Made Smarter North West’s steering group and production director for BAE Systems, said: “Made Smarter has demonstrated that targeted support can be a catalyst for growth and a real enabler for change.
“UK manufacturing is moving into a phase where resilience is as important as it has ever been. Made Smarter is helping SMEs create robust plans to deliver impactful results.”
Juergen Maier, industrialist and author of the Made Smarter Review, added: “I am delighted that the Made Smarter programme, kicked off by the manufacturing review I had the privilege to lead in 2017, is now being expanded England-wide and with promised continuity to 2030.
“It is exactly this sort of policy continuity that our manufacturing sector is looking for and I know it will stimulate investment and productivity.”