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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 one-year 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, Industrial Digital Technology Specialist for Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Tim Kirby outlines the benefits of the scheme for businesses in the area.

Hear Tim's perspective and expertise
  • How new technology can help West Midlands manufacturers

    “This is the perfect time for manufacturing and engineering businesses, however small, to consider their short, medium and long-term futures in an increasingly digital world.

    “Thinking about technology can be scary, particularly if you don’t have much knowledge of the sector, but one of the many benefits of Made Smarter is that we have experts who will guide you through the whole process step-by-step and in easy-to-understand language.

    “There have been so many hurdles for businesses to overcome in the last two years due to the pandemic and Brexit, but Made Smarter is helping the manufacturing and engineering sector to make the most of the digital age to become more productive and competitive.

  • My background

    We want to help SMEs help themselves to get up-to-speed with how the latest software or using robots can really benefit their business.

    I come from an automotive background. For the last 18 years, I worked for Bentley Motors for 16 years and Toyota before that where everything is digitalised and lean manufacturing is embraced to make every area of the company more efficient.

    Over the last few months, I have been contacting SMEs in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire and it is sometimes at the other end of the scale – orders are still filled out on paper and the process monitored through physical paperwork.

    One of my key messages to business owners and senior management teams is that by introducing new digital technology it will give them more time to take on more orders so the business

  • What's on offer

    Joining the Made Smarter programme gives SMEs in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire the opportunity to upgrade their systems and become more productive, which is really important for their future.

    There are 50 per cent of match-funded grants available of up to £20,000 to invest in digital technology - whether that’s for hardware, software or whatever they would like to introduce to their business practices.

    There is also an opportunity to take on an intern free of charge for 12 weeks or join a leadership training course – another aspect I’ve picked up from talking to businesses is that employees are often promoted to a manager’s role but they haven’t had any training, so this is really beneficial.

    There are quite a few different aspects to Made Smarter including eight days’ of support for each business from the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) or WMG, at the University of Warwick, who will visit each SME to really get under the skin of each business before writing a detailed diagnostic report.

    During the visit, some companies may know which areas they would like to improve digitally and others may not, but that is not a problem – the MTC or WMG will provide advice on where they think SMEs can be improved whether it is software or AI.

    Once the roadmap has been read, then I will discuss the next steps with the business and help with applying for grant funding if that is required.

    This is a great opportunity to really future-proof your business in an increasingly digital world. At Made Smarter, we are here to help, so please get in touch.

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