Business & Industry Minister, Richard Harrington, and Chair of the Made Smarter Review, Juergen Maier, have unveiled the details of the £20m Made Smarter North West Pilot today (14 November), which will test out the most effective ways to engage with manufacturers and encourage them to adopt technologies
Taking to the stage to announce the Made Smarter Pilot, Juergen Maier noted that the discussions happening here at the UK’s largest manufacturer-to-manufacturer conference, Manufacturing Leaders’ Summit (part of Digital Manufacturing Week), were of far greater importance to the UK than the current debates around Brexit.
Speaking via video message, Richard Harrington, MP for Business & Industry, said that the Made Smarter initiative was a vital part of the government’s Industrial Strategy as it doesn’t just affect one sector, but every sector.
The Minister added that the pilot announced today will enable businesses of all sizes to share in the opportunities that digital technologies and the future of manufacturing will provide. To that end, a core part of the announcement was grants of up to £20,000 to help small businesses adopt and embrace industrial digital technologies (IDT).
The Minister also expects this initial Made Smarter pilot to be broadened out to encompass the rest of the country in the very near future.
So, what does the Made Smarter North West Pilot involve?
The Pilot centres around getting real, practical and tangible advice out to small and medium-size businesses who are keen to adopt a technology like robotics, or initiate their first venture into data analytics, or get involved with making a part using additive manufacturing, but don’t know how.
These are the sorts of questions that are being asked, according to Juergen, hence the creation of dedicated a support service in the North West that will help manufacturers not only answer them, but get some real practical help to start implementing them.
He added: “The UK can enter the history books in two ways. Either we get our mojo back, we bring back the vital role manufacturing and engineering plays, and we rebalance our economy (not just in terms of the North | South divide, but towards high-skill jobs and wealth creation); or, as the generation who missed the boat, who failed to get behind this new digital Industrial Revolution and we see our manufacturing base slip away as a result.”
Made Smarter is geared towards making the current pockets of digital technological adoption into a broader movement, and helping industry to champion a better, brighter future for everyone.
Working through five North West Growth Hubs (Greater Manchester, Liverpool, Cumbria, Lancashire, Cheshire and Warrington), the £20m pilot aims to engage with 3,000 local manufacturers and provide intensive support to 600.
Over the next few years, the pilot will test out the most effective ways to engage with manufacturers and encourage them to adopt technologies such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, IoT and sensors, 3D printing and robotics.
Widely thought of as a blueprint for the rest of the UK, if successful, the pilot could help unlock additional funding worth £120m.
The amount of material surrounding the digitalisation of manufacturing – and the general tone of said material – may appear hyperbolic, but the opportunities digital technologies provide are actually far more transformative than many people recognise, Juergen said.
“Making business owners and decision-makers more aware of those opportunities relies on two things: sustained support from government and creating an improved innovation ecosystem where people are exposed to and can play with these technologies.”
Juergen commented: “It is vital that the UK leads a new industrial revolution, and makes the most of the rapid digitalisation of our manufacturing base. For Britain to thrive our SME’s must be equipped with the skills and technologies needed to make and export more.
“I am delighted that BEIS and the Treasury both share my ambition to ensure the UK is at the forefront of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. By getting behind Made Smarter and funding our innovative pilot, together we will help businesses boost productivity and take full advantage of this technological change.”
Start your own revolution!
Discover how you can help build the North West’s digital manufacturing future, register for an assessment at MadeSmarter.uk