A NEW £20 million initiative to embed advanced digital technology across the North West’s manufacturing sector to boost productivity, has been launched.

Backed by the Government, the Made Smarter North West programme is set to engage with 3,000 SME manufacturers.

Cumbria companies which get involved in the project will get the chance to access match-funded support and advice regarding how industrial digital technologies, including robotics and artificial intelligence could revolutionise their manufacturing.

A number of Cumbriam firms will also qualify for more intensive business support, gaining access to match-funded grants, mentoring and other resources which will help them to accelerate commercial growth.

It could generate a 25 per cent increase in productivity and add £115m to the North West economy, the programme says.

Up to £121 million of additional Made Smarter programme funding will be provided by the Government and it will be supported and promoted by the Cumbria Growth Hub and the Cumbria Local Economic Partnership.

Jo Lappin, chief executive of Cumbria LEP, said: “Through major investments such as our two new advanced manufacturing centres at Furness College and Carlisle College, Cumbria is already gearing up to support the county’s next generation of engineers, digital designers and material scientists.

“But we also have hundreds of existing SME manufacturers in the region who are keen to embrace new technologies to help improve their business performance and drive growth.

“The programme will offer these firms access to advice and support which has the potential to transform the way they develop new products and will help to put innovation at the heart of everything they do.”

Barry Leahey MBE, managing director of playground firm Playdale, attended the official launch in Liverpool.

Mr Leahey said: “As a progressive and ambitious Cumbrian company we are always looking to improve the way we do business and are very keen to explore how new technologies like 3D printing and automation could help us be more efficient and competitive."

Visit www.cumbriagrowthhub.co.uk for more information.