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Local SMEs to be offered fully-funded support and grants to accelerate business growth

A new £20 million initiative, designed to embed advanced digital technology across the North West’s manufacturing sector to boost productivity, has been officially launched.

Backed by national government and some of the world’s biggest businesses, the Made Smarter North West programme is set to engage with 6,000 SME manufacturers based in Cheshire, Cumbria, Lancashire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside.

Cumbrian companies which get involved in the project will get the chance to access fully-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 Cumbria firms will also qualify for more intensive business guidance, 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% increase in productivity and add £115m to the North West economy.

Embracing the principles of Made Smarter could also help to open up new markets, increase exports and create hundreds of additional high-skilled, high-value jobs across Cumbria.

Further, Made Smarter North West is set to be a blueprint for the rest of the UK. This follows an announcement in the recent budget that up to £121 million of additional Made Smarter programme funding would be made available across the country as part of government’s £1.1 billion Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

As well providing significant funding to underpin the Made Smarter concept, government has also worked closely with industry to drive the programme.

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

As well as Siemens, other members of the Commission with a major presence in the North West include Airbus, Jaguar Land Rover, Rolls Royce and Cumbria-based BAE Systems.

Juergen Maier, CEO of Siemens, 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 opportunities and technologies in the process. It’s a hugely exciting time for the Liverpool City Region, 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 supported and promoted in Cumbria by the Cumbria Growth Hub and the Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

Jo Lappin, chief executive of Cumbria LEP said: “Through major investments such as our two new advanced manufacturing centres at Furness College and Carlisle College, Cumbria is already gearing up to support the county’s next generation of engineers, digital designers and material scientists.

“But we also have hundreds of existing SME manufacturers in the region who are keen to embrace new technologies to help improve their business performance and drive growth.

“The Made Smarter North West programme will offer these firms access to fully-funded advice and support which has the potential to transform the way they develop new products and will help to put innovation at the heart of everything they do.”

Today’s Made Smarter North West launch took place as part of Digital Manufacturing Week and the Manufacturers Leaders’ Summit. The Summit is a national conference hosted at Liverpool Arena dedicated to the latest digital manufacturing technologies.

Present at the launch were several North West SMEs who already have developed or deployed some aspects of IDT within their processes. One of these was Cumbria’s Playdale, a playground design, manufacturing and installation company who are based in Ulverston.

Barry Leahey MBE, Playdale’s Managing Director said: “As a progressive and ambitious Cumbrian company we are always looking to improve the way we do business and are very keen to explore how new technologies like 3D printing and hi-tech automation could help us be more efficient and competitive.

“It’s therefore great news that Cumbria will be part of the Made Smarter North West initiative, and I am excited about how a firm like ours can potentially benefit from the high-quality guidance and expertise being offered via the Growth Hub.”

Cumbria manufacturers who would like to register an interest in taking part in Made Smarter North West should visit

For more information on the Made Smarter programme visit

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