A major scheme designed to help West Midlands manufacturing and engineering firms adopt the latest digital tech and drive growth has received £2.3m extra in funding to continue its work.
Made Smarter has already helped more than 200 SMEs in the West Midlands digitise their work, improve employees’ skills and become more productive since the scheme was launched the region in 2021.
Because of this success, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) which funds the scheme has agreed to commit a further £2.3M to continue the programme for another three years. More than 150 businesses have already signed up to benefit from this second phase of the scheme. This announcement comes as part of the Manufacturing Showcase which was opened today by Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, which will support British manufacturers based in the Midlands.
Image (L-R): Anne Boyd, Chief Executive at Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire LEP, Tim Mulqueen, Director at Ramfoam, Mark Swift, Head of WMG SME Group, University of Warwick, Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands and Craig Humphrey, Managing Director at the CW LEP Growth Hub, meet at the Ramfoam Enterprise House.
Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “I’m thrilled that we have succeeded in securing this extra funding from Government to help our region’s manufacturing and engineering firms to embrace digital technology.
“Prior to the pandemic we had the fastest growing economy outside of London and enhancing our digital capabilities will help us bounce back - getting back on track towards renewed growth and generating high quality job opportunities for local residents.”
“Anything we can do to drive innovation here in the West Midlands – not least for our dynamic SMEs - is very good news so I very much welcome the progress being made thanks to the Made Smarter programme.”
The Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub is leading the 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 BEIS.
The West Midlands Growth Hubs are working closely with the West Midlands Combined Authority and their strategic partners WMG, University of Warwick, and the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in Coventry to tap into the expertise of their digital manufacturing specialists.
Craig Humphrey, Managing Director of the CWLEP Growth Hub said: “Phase One of Made Smarter in the West Midlands was a runaway success with the scheme helping over 200 businesses across the region get the support they needed to access the latest digital innovations and expertise to help them grow and become more productive.
“It is fantastic to be able to continue this work under Phase Two of the scheme where we would look to help even more companies.
“Often, manufacturing and engineering SMEs know that there are areas where they can improve but have neither the time nor the capital to take those big steps to enhance their business.
“Made Smarter works directly with businesses to pinpoint the right solution for them and can help them through the process of applying for match-funded grants.
“We are really looking forward to helping even more businesses access the latest digital technology, and we are delighted BEIS has seen the worth of this project in our region.”
One company who has already benefited from the funding is Ramfoam. Ramfoam, which makes foam products for the military and other organisations, was one of the first businesses to sign up to the West Midlands Made Smarter programme which is aimed at increasing the number of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) adopting digital technology in manufacturing. Last year Ramfoam adapted its manufacturing practices to produce two million face visors a week at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Paul Sullivan, Made Smarter’s Digital Transformation Specialist for Coventry and Warwickshire, added: “Having more than 150 businesses ready to help across the West Midlands already in Phase Two is brilliant – it means we can continue our good work straight away now that the funding has come through.
“My fellow digital experts and I loved working with companies during Phase One and identifying exactly what they needed to boost their business and helping them secure grant funding to pay for it.
“Now, we will be able to carry on helping SMEs on an even greater scale than before thanks to this injection of funds.”
Cllr Ian Brookfield, WMCA portfolio lead for economy and leader of City of Wolverhampton Council, said: “Made Smarter Phase Two will enable SMEs across the West Midlands to receive the specialist support they need to embrace digital technology. SMEs have felt the effects of the pandemic and have had to adapt to different ways of working and we hope this new funding will continue to allow that growth.
“Improved digital expertise gained through Made Smarter can help the region’s SMEs future-proof their practices, contributing to the economic prosperity of the region.”