This week brings the news of a form of angel investing with a difference.
A collective group of UK small and medium enterprise (SME) manufacturers have invested £22 million in UK technology, backed following backing from the Made Smarter adoption programme in the North West, an industry and government-backed movement to drive growth amongst UK makers and advance the UK economy.
In response, 300 businesses have now secured £6.5 million in matched funding from Made Smarter.
With funding spread across 350 technology projects, Madesmarter forecasts the creation of 1,600 new jobs and over 2,850 upskilled roles, which are set to add £242m to the economy over the next three years.
Businesses benefiting from the funding include food and drink manufacturers: Harbourside Products, Northern Pasta Company, Brightside Brewing Company, Just Bee Honey, Studio Bakery and Chandley Ovens.
Allison Metcalf, Managing Director of Studio Bakery, based in Clitheroe, used Made Smarter support to create a digital roadmap and invest in a new cutting machine.
"Working with Made Smarter has been transformational for our bakery business.
At a time when we were rapidly expanding, they were there to support us. New technology has increased our productivity and made us more efficient. We're now able to meet our increased orders, and we're ready for the next stage of our expansion."
Contour Campervan Furniture, based in Kendal, has adopted CNC machinery with Made Smarter's support.
Co-founders Caitlin Green and Tom Lake said:
"This technology has enabled us to bring production of our birch plywood campervan furniture in-house.
We can now produce more, have improved quality control over our product, and can innovate and create new products much more quickly. This has helped us to create jobs, made us a more profitable company, and significantly reduced our lead times for our shipped flat-pack campervan furniture."
With the Government committing to continue the North West adoption programme as part of a UK rollout, manufacturers are urged to connect with Made Smarter to access the funded support.
This includes digital transformation workshops to create a digital roadmap, impartial and expert technology advice, leadership and skills training, and grant funding for digital internships and technology projects.
Donna Edwards, Director of the Made Smarter Adoption Programme in the North West, said:
"Our mission is to engage with the thousands of manufacturers out there who we are certain could benefit from our support. As such, we are redoubling our efforts to reach more businesses and to inspire and inform them about the benefits of technology adoption.
"For many, this may be helping them take the first step to digitise manual and paper-based systems or use sensors to capture vital production data. But for others with a digital infrastructure in place, they may be ready for more sophisticated, boundary-pushing technologies such as analytics, machine learning and AI, which are evolving at unprecedented speed.
"Digital isn't coming – it's arrived. Adopting technologies at the right time and in the right way is the key to unlocking real benefits for industry, society and the planet."
Lead image: Contour Campervans co-founders Caitlin Green and Tom Lake. Photo: uncredited.