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The £1.9 million Made Smarter scheme was launched in the West Midlands in June 2021 to help manufacturing and engineering SMEs utilise new digital technologies such as AI, advanced robotics, big data and wearable technology to improve their efficiency and productivity.

The Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub is leading the scheme with the region’s other Growth Hubs in Greater Birmingham and Solihull, the Black Country, Worcestershire, 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.

Here, Digital Transformation Specialist for Greater Birmingham and Solihull Jim Vithanage highlights why Made Smarter can make a real difference to eligible manufacturing and engineering businesses in the area.

“I started my working career as an Air Engineering ‘Artificer’ in the Royal Navy working on helicopters and specialising in communications.

“Since then, communications and technology seem to have been in my blood having worked internationally for an American manufacturer of radio alarm systems and, most recently, a French-based provider of integration software.

“So I know the benefits digital technology can bring and I have also seen it first-hand as the Made Smarter programme over the last 12 months has led to SMEs throughout the region increasing their efficiency and profits through adopting digital technology.

“The whole Made Smarter process is easy and, as Digital Transformation Specialist for Greater Birmingham and Solihull, I am here to guide businesses in the area through the paperwork as easily as possible.

“The first step is to register on and then I will be in touch to arrange to come along to your premises to review the company’s current operation and needs by listening to the management team.

“Following this assessment, we will determine the technology that would best suit your business – this could be anything from additive manufacturing, data and systems integration, through to robotics and process control automation or one of the many other options!

“After this initial chat, an independent technology specialist from either the Manufacturing Technology Centre or WMG at the University of Warwick will be appointed to gain further detailed information and provide a digital roadmap to implement the suggested digital changes.

“This service is all free and comes with an added bonus of the ability to apply for a match-funded grant of up to £20,000 to help pay for the digital technology which is a welcome boost.

“I work for the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub based in Coventry but I live in Solihull so I’m excited at the prospect of helping local businesses in my area.

“I believe there is a great opportunity for businesses in Greater Birmingham due to its industrial history – and I am sure that there are many paper-based companies out there that need some help.

“There’s no need to be shy or unsure of digital technology because this scheme is here to help businesses just like yours who need that little bit extra of specialist advice to move forward.

“Every business that has joined this Government-backed programme has reaped the benefits, so manufacturing and engineering businesses in Greater Birmingham and Solihull – please register your interest on the website. We can arrange a visit so that I can find out all about your business and help take it to the next level through adapting the latest digital technology and drive growth.

“Hundreds of companies have already seen huge improvements after taking part in the Made Smarter programme so why not register today and see how it could improve your business.”

Jim can be contacted at or to register on the programme, please visit


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