Small and medium sized manufacturing businesses from across Cumbria have invested almost £1 million in new technologies will support from the Made Smarter programme.

In the first year of the North West pilot, 12 businesses in the county have secured £300,000 worth of match funding through the programme, which aims to help SMEs to adopt new digital tools and technologies to boost productivity and growth.

The latest tranche of beneficiaries include LED specialists Forge Europa and Astec Precision, both based in Ulverston; Playdale Playgrounds, Haverthwaite; Penrith headquartered Cranstons Quality Butchers and The Cumbria Clock Company, also based in the Eden town; James Tanner Joinery, Kendal; Hudson Swan in Workington and Contactless Check Solutions and DM Engineering, both based in Maryport.

Using their own money, along with Made Smarter cash, they have adopted technologies ranging from Data Analytics, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality and the Industrial Internet of Things to 3D-printing and robotics to solve challenges to their manufacturing processes.

Cumbrian SMEs were among the first to be given a chance to seek funding and support from Made Smarter.

The programme has a total funding pot of £20m, funded by industry, and provides expert impartial advice, one-to-one support, funded three-month student placements and eight-month leadership and management training programmes offered in partnership with Lancaster University.

Other county businesses to benefit from the scheme include food manufacturer Bells of Lazonby; Eggbase in Sedbergh and Penrith-based Bell Mount Farming, which produces eggs for the Lakes Free-Range Eggs brand.

Around 80 Cumbrian SMEs have approached the pilot for support.

Jon Power, internationalisation manager at Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership – one of the partners in the Made Smarter scheme- said he was delighted to see local businesses seizing opportunities to adopt new technologies to improve their performance.

“By becoming a test-bed for new types of technologies and advanced processes, the region’s manufacturing sector will increase productivity and drive forward Cumbria’s economic prosperity,” he added.

The Made Smarter programme – open to businesses employing less than 250 staff who make, create, manufacture or engineer – was launched in November 2018, became operational in January 2019, and runs until March 2021.

Its programme director Donna Edwards urged more Cumbrian companies to follow suit and seek support.

“It’s clear that the SMEs need the specialist advice and insight to help them select the right approach for their business, how much to invest and which technologies will bring the greatest benefits,” she said.

“The interest we have received in the first year has been incredible. I urge local businesses to get in touch and find out how digital technology can transform their business.”

In total 62 businesses across the North West from industries ranging from engineering, aerospace, food and drink, agriculture, steel, chemicals and textiles, have received match funding from Made Smarter.

Together, they are forecast to deliver an extra £52m in GVA (Gross Value Added) for the region’s economy in the next three years.

The North West pilot is being overseen by the Made Smarter Commission – a partnership between the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and industry leaders.

Juergen Maier, the co-chair of the commission and former chief executive of Siemens, said he was “thrilled” with the response so far.

“Our task now is to scale this up and see what other regions can learn from the great work that’s already being done here,” he added.