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Delivering Impact
How Made Smarter inspires digital transformation

The Made Smarter Pilot programme was a bold and ambitious plan to equip North West SME manufacturers with the know-how and confidence to fully embrace the next industrial revolution, offering them access to a package of support that could boost growth, productivity, efficiency, decarbonise and create high-value, well-paid jobs of the future.

Executive summary

It is approaching five years since I stood shoulder to shoulder with Made Smarter architect and industrialist Juergen Maier to launch the first Made Smarter adoption programme.

The bold and ambitious plan was to equip North West SME manufacturers with the know-how and confidence to fully embrace the next industrial revolution, offering them access to a package of support which could boost growth, productivity, efficiency, decarbonise and create high value, well paid jobs of the future.

The reaction was phenomenal. We were swamped with interest, tempered by others claiming technology would lose people their jobs. It was a frenetic start.

Little did we know the challenges waiting around the corner for us. Covid-19, Brexit, Ukraine and the subsequent supply chain disruption and labour shortages, rising energy prices and a cost of living crisis pummelled the UK economy.

But despite these competing crosswinds, and the urge to batten down the hatches, the appetite for adopting technology and digital skills grew, and is continuing to do so.

What the North West adoption programme has achieved is breathtaking. More than 2,500 manufacturers have engaged with our specialised support.

Hundreds have reaped the rewards of intensive support including expert, impartial technology advice and digital transformation workshops to help them take their first steps to identify practical solutions to overcome business challenges.

More than 150 have embedded new digital skills into their operations through our leadership programmes, internships and other training opportunities.

We have funded 334 technology projects with companies and we’re starting to see the economic benefit with the North West forecast to see an increase of £242M in GVA in the coming years. What is more, is that these investments are creating 1,300 new jobs and upskilling 2,500 existing roles. We’ve proved the naysayers wrong!

Our achievement can be put down to a well designed model which puts people at the centre of the adoption of technology, and a flexible approach to delivering what SMEs need as new challenges and opportunities emerge. Crucially, we listen to feedback from companies we have and are working with to ensure that the support remains relevant and practical.

The relentless work of the team has created a rich and varied network of manufacturers, who talk to each other, demonstrate what works and doesn’t, and keep the narrative real. 

Our achievement also comes down to trust. Change is not easy. I would like to thank all those SMEs who have engaged with the programme for trusting the team to work with you to make those changes in a sustainable, impactful way.

This blueprint of success has so far been replicated in the North East, Yorkshire and the Humber, the West Midlands, East Midlands, and West of England. It is now poised to be rolled out to the whole of the UK from 2025.

While we can pat ourselves on the back for a job well done over the last four years, our mission is by no way over. We’ve got some really good evidence now to try and encourage those that haven’t started to adopt to do so.

We are not doing this alone. There is a real local, regional and national approach to Made Smarter which enables organisations, large and small, at each stage of the supply chain network, to work together.

The National Commission continues to make the case to invest more in Made Smarter, not just in terms of productivity and growth, but also the positive impact on decarbonisation and net zero. Made Smarter is joining up different agendas for the government. And then there is our North West steering board, which now includes SMEs who have benefited from the programme, ensuring the programme remains relevant and forward-thinking.

As we approach the fifth anniversary, we’ve put together a white paper to reflect on why Made Smarter was started, the impact it has already had in the North West, and our vision for the future

Donna Edwards
Director of Made Smarter’s North WestAdoption Programme