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New £20m fund will help to drive region's next industrial revolution

The region’s manufacturing sector has been given a £20m boost to kick start a fourth industrial revolution. The fund has been designed to embed advanced digital technology across the north west’s manufacturing sector to boost productivity.

Backed by the government and some of the world’s biggest businesses, the Made Smarter North West programme is set to engage with 3,000 SME manufacturers based in Cheshire and Warrington, Cumbria, Lancashire, Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City Region.

Artificial intelligence

Greater Manchester companies which get involved in the project will get the chance to access match funded support and advice regarding how industrial digital technologies (IDT), including robotics, artificial intelligence, 3D printing and the Internet of Things (IoT), could revolutionise their manufacturing processes.

A number of Greater Manchester firms will also qualify for more intensive business support, gaining access to match-funded grants, bespoke consultancy, mentoring and other resources which will help them to accelerate commercial growth.

It is anticipated that by becoming a test-bed for new types of technologies and advanced processes, the region’s manufacturing sector could generate a 25 per cent increase in productivity and add £115m to the region’s economy.

It could also help to open up new markets, increase exports and create hundreds of additional high-skilled, high-value jobs across Greater Manchester.

One company that is already deploying digital technology to its manufacturing process is Rochdale-based Crystal Doors, a vinyl door manufacturer which uses robotics, 3D modelling and hi-tech dust extraction technology across its operations.

Industrial revolution

Richard Hagan, Crystal Doors managing director, said: “When I tell people we make doors many of them picture a sawdust-filled workshop, tins of wood stain and boxes of door handles.

“However, when they visit our facility and see the level of automation we utilise, and the precision technology which we apply to production, they are genuinely stunned.

“The efficiencies such processes bring also impact massively on our bottom line and I would encourage any Greater Manchester manufacturer, from any sector, to explore how an initiative like Made Smarter North West could change the way they work.”

A formal partnership between the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the private sector, the programme is overseen by the Made Smarter Commission.

'Once in a generational opportunity'

Co-chaired by Business Secretary Greg Clarke, and CEO of Siemens Juergen Maier, the Commission includes representatives from 17 leading employers and organisations directly linked to manufacturing.

As well as Siemens, which employs 1,000 people in Greater Manchester, other members include Rolls Royce, BAE Systems, Airbus and Jaguar Land Rover.

Turning traditional industries digital

Juergen Maier said: “Made Smarter has the potential to kick start a new industrial revolution for our manufacturing sector and be a catalyst for new investment in the latest digital technologies. At its core will be helping local businesses to innovate, creating new growth and technology opportunities in the process.

“It’s a hugely exciting time for Greater Manchester, and I believe this is truly a once in a generational opportunity to boost productivity and create the high value, highly paid jobs of the future.”

Made Smarter will be delivered across Greater Manchester by GC Business Growth Hub, while its regional roll-out will be co-ordinated by Donna Edwards, Managing Director for Business Support and Business Finance at the Growth Company.

Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, said: “From cottonopolis to graphene, Greater Manchester has a long tradition of leading the world in new forms of manufacturing and commercial innovation.

“Through Made Smarter North West we now have a fantastic opportunity to embed digital technology and advanced manufacturing throughout our manufacturing industry and wider supply chains.”

For more information about the pilot and to register your interest as an SME manufacturer or Digital Tech Supplier please visit www.madesmarter.uk 

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