Lancashire manufacturers are grabbing the opportunity to transform their businesses digitally thanks to help from the £20m Made Smarter scheme.
The scheme is being piloted in the region and is backed by the Government along with global industry leaders such as Siemens and BAE Systems, chambers of commerce and the local enterprise partnerships.
It offers a three pronged approach to get the county’s makers to embrace the “Industry 4.0 programme”.
Made Smarter offers match funding opportunities and the provision of dedicated technical and business support for SMEs adopting digital technology, plus student placements and leadership training to drive transformation in the county’s businesses.
SMEs are being encouraged to invest in new digital production methods to improve efficiency and productivity.
Made Smarter programme manager Alain Dilworth said: “In our area, around 15,000 businesses are eligible.
“We had lots of interest early on and spoke to around 1,500 companies on a one to one basis. Since then we have been engaging in more deeply with 300 businesses, of which, 60 have developed projects for which we have agreed funding.
“It’s progressed much faster than I imagined, the level of interest and engagement has taken us all by surprise.
“Lancashire has been at the forefront for our approved projects, more so then Greater Manchester of Liverpool. Businesses in the county have really taken the opportunities.”
As well as the digital transformation support he said demand was high for Made Smarter’s courses to improve leadership and management skills within SMEs.
He said: “We have been working with Lancaster University to develop specific programmes. The first cohort is under way and the second cohort is due to start next year.
“The third prong of attack is the student placement element. They are three month placements with companies and we want the students to have a focused set of objectives with them.
"These are generally third year undergraduates or masters students. This must benefit the company and the student.
“We want to work with the manufacturers that struggle to invest in digital technology, for various reasons.”
Eligible businesses must have less than 250 employees and a turnover of less than £44m or a balance sheet total of less than £38.5m.
Visit madesmarter.uk for more details about the help on offer.