22 Jul 2024


Government’s £8m will help up to 1,000 SMEs to go digital

Ian Mackinnon and Peter Saunders from the animation firm Mackinnon & Saunders which has benefited from the Made Smarter North West pilot programme

The UK Government has earmarked £8m in funding to expand the Made Smarter manufacturing technology support programme, rolling it out from the pilot project in North West England, to help up to 1,000 SME manufacturers in the North East, Yorkshire and Humberside, and the West Midlands to adopt digital technologies such as robotics and automation.

Over the past two years, the pilot programme has worked with 1,165 firms in the North West and provided intensive support for 568 manufacturers, including expert advice, funded internships and digital workshops. Almost 150 businesses have received £3.5m in  funding for 180 projects, attracting a further £10m of private sector investment. These projects are predicted to deliver an extra £138m in gross added value for the North West economy over the coming three years, creating more than 800 jobs and upskilling 1,700 existing roles.

For example, Altrincham-based Mackinnon and Saunders, an animation company which worked on Bob the Builder and Postman Pat series, has been helped to adopt digital technologies including 3D printing to keep up with bigger, global rivals.

The new funding – part of the government’s Made Smarter Adoption programme – will continue to support businesses in the North West, and will expand in the coming months to include manufacturers in the other regions, helping them to modernise, go digital, create new jobs, boost productivity and cut emissions.

“The companies that have adopted the latest digital technology are already reaping the rewards,” says Minister for Investment, Lord Grimstone. “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.”

The government is also investing £147m through its Manufacturing Made Smarter Challenge to drive innovation in new digital systems for manufacturers.

• A free online conference, Made Smarter: The Journey to Digital Manufacturing, will take place on 10 March and will look at the lessons of the North West pilot. It will include presentations from companies – including Mackinnon and Saunders – that have benefitted from the scheme, as well as those involved in setting it up and running it.

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