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A new £20 million initiative, designed to embed advanced digital technology across the North West’s manufacturing sector to boost productivity, was officially launched in Liverpool today as part of Digital Manufacturing Week.

Backed by national 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.

Local 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 firms based in the Liverpool City Region 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% 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 the Liverpool City Region.

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 employers and organisations directly linked to manufacturing.

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

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 growth and technology opportunities 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 delivered locally by the Liverpool City Region’s Local Growth Hub, which is managed by the Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

Simon Reid, the LEPs Head of Advanced Manufacturing, said: “Through initiatives like LCR 4.0 we are already actively engaged with SMEs involved in advanced manufacturing across the Liverpool City Region.

“However, Made Smarter will help those ambitious local companies who are keen to embrace new industrial digital technologies but are not sure where to start. Through this programme our Growth Hub advisers will be offering support and access to funding to help such SMEs maximise the opportunities offered by the latest industrial digital technologies.”

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 Exhibition Centre Liverpool dedicated to the latest digital manufacturing technologies.

Welcoming the programme at today’s event Liverpool City Region Metro Mayor, Steve Rotheram said: “By hosting the Manufacturers Leaders’ Summit and the Smart Factory Expo in Liverpool this week we have been able to showcase many of the Liverpool City Region’s incredible technology-led businesses.

“But to really fulfil our potential as a hub of advanced manufacturing we need to embrace new techniques and processes which will drive growth. Made Smarter will offer hundreds of SME manufacturers the chance to do just that, backed by a programme of guidance, advice and grants.”
Also present were several North West SMEs who already have developed or deployed IDT within their manufacturing processes. These included Bootle-based CNC Robotics, a leading robotics integration company which provide automation solutions to companies all over the world.

Madina Barker, CNC Robotics Director, said: “CNC Robotics has already played an active role in the LCR 4.0 initiative and we work closely with the Local Growth Hub and the LEP to help to push our business forward. However, for local companies which are unsure about the role that hi-tech technologies such as robotics, AI and 3D-printing could play in helping them gain a competitive edge and develop new markets, Made Smarter North West is set to offer them a fantastic opportunity.

“I would therefore encourage any ambitious manufacturers to get fully involved in the programme and join companies like ours who are helping to put the Liverpool City Region at the heart of 21st century industry.”

Local manufacturers who would like to register their interest in taking part in Made Smarter North West should visit www.localgrowthhub.com
For more information on the Made Smarter programme visit www.madesmarter.uk