University of Warwick: Made Smarter launches £1.9 million digital scheme with WMG to help West Midlands SMEs

Made Smarter has launched a £1.9 million digital adoption push to drive growth in West Midlands manufacturing and engineering SMEs and help them boost productivity.

Digital experts will provide advice to businesses on how to switch to advanced and automated technologies as well as working to improve employees’ overall digital skills.

The Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub is leading the one-year Made Smarter scheme with its fellow Growth Hubs in Greater Birmingham and Solihull, the Black Country, Worcestershire Business Central, The Marches, and Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire on behalf of the West Midlands Combined Authority and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

The West Midlands Growth Hubs are working closely with the West Midlands Combined Authority and their strategic partners WMG, at the University of Warwick and the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in Coventry to tap into the expertise of their digital manufacturing specialists.

Professor David Greenwood, CEO of WMG HVM Catapult centre, comments:
“Digitalisation for smaller companies needs a different approach than for larger companies. It isn’t about purchasing multi-million pound software systems – it’s about improvements in design tools, manufacturing, digitalising legacy plant and equipment and integration to supply chain systems.

“We are delighted to bring the expertise of WMG and the High Value Manufacturing Catapult to help transform the productivity of SMEs who are so critical to the West Midlands regional economy.”

Craig Humphrey, managing director of the CWLEP Growth Hub, said there are potentially 14,500 SME manufacturers in the region who could benefit from the National Made Smarter Movement. He said:
“All the Growth Hubs in the West Midlands are working together to contact SMEs in our areas who will benefit from this practical help.

“Digital technology can appear daunting and with the day-to-day efforts of owners and senior management teams to keep their businesses going during the pandemic, this kind of activity needs to be pushed to the upper end of their priorities.

“But we believe it is key to help SMEs in the advanced manufacturing and engineering sector to run more efficiently for their long-term future success.

“The Growth Hubs will be assessing each business that applies to make sure we provide them with the kind of specialist support they need, which in Coventry and Warwickshire could be in the fields of robotics and automation, and artificial intelligence since we are working with WMG and the MTC.

“We will then help SMEs to develop an action plan for adopting digital technology in their own detailed roadmap, which could involve participating in a leadership training programme, being offered a student placement, or receiving a match funded grant.

“The National Made Smarter Movement aims to entice SMEs that are not often reached through the usual business programmes and services, by transforming the digital tools within their companies, which in addition to upskilling their staff and creating jobs, will benefit the regional economy.”

Charlotte Horobin, Make UK Region Director – Midlands & East of England, said:
“The roll out of the Made Smarter Adoption programme across the West Midlands is great news for manufacturers, which we and our members welcome.

“Our 2020 Innovation Monitor highlighted that 18% of manufacturers in the West Midlands were not adopting industrial digital technologies, which we hope the programme will help address. Digital take-up will be key to boosting productivity as we come out of the current COVID crisis, creating more highly paid jobs and underpinning the region’s competitiveness.”

Neill Smith, Head of Manufacturing Support Services at the Manufacturing Technology Centre, said that the Made Smarter scheme perfectly complements its ongoing work to support manufacturing SMEs increase productivity, develop resilience, increase competitiveness and, ultimately, grow their business.

He said: “We help introduce digital systems to SMEs, that capture the right information at the right time, to enable them to make the right decisions and manage their companies more efficiently.

“From supporting the adoption of process control automation, robotics, and digitalisation tools, to helping SMEs with data or system integration and the adoption of augmented and virtual reality tools, we’re supporting companies to use digital data to drive digitally controlled equipment in the latest methods of manufacture.”

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