New programme to help SMEs adopt digital technologies

Prof Simon Bolton

A new joint initiative led by Edge Hill University to support the adoption of productivity-boosting digital technologies in SME manufactures has been launched across the North West.

The Manufacturing Connect (MC) initiative brings together manufacturing, technology and business experts from Edge Hill University in Ormskirk, the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (NW) in Preston, and Manchester Metropolitan University.

The UK’s productivity challenges are well documented, and the recent impacts of the COVID-19 epidemic have only served to exacerbate this issue.
Digital technologies have an important role in improving productivity, embedding business resilience, and supporting growth and recovery.

In the UK, the rates at which SMEs adopt even well-established and known digital technologies is far behind that of other European and North American countries.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and Innovate UK have recognised this issue and are supporting regional initiatives like MC to trial and test methods which will seek to overcome the common barriers to this adoption, such as lack of knowledge, lack of information, productivity literacy, and unclear impacts and benefits.

The initiative is designed to support manufacturing SMEs from all sectors across the North West, and the dedicated team is currently looking for interested businesses to take part to overcome their barriers to adoption.

MC seeks to actively support more than 100 SMEs up to February 2021, by running cycles of a digital-facilitated Adoption Sprint Process.

The initiative will focus on three digital technology types for SMEs to adopt: Customer Relationship Management; Production Planning; and Resource Planning.

MC has worked with digital experts to capture their knowledge and practical expertise to share with the SME participants of the project.

Experts from commercial technology vendors, business support agencies, and from organisations who have experience in implementing digital technologies in-house have made a significant contribution to the content developed to support the project.

Prof Simon Bolton, from the Productivity & Innovation Centre at Edge Hill University, said: “Adopting a new technology is a major investment for manufacturing SMEs.

“It is an important part of their decision-making process that they are fully informed and supplied with real accounts of the impact and benefits of the technologies from vendors, other SMEs and those with significant expertise in the digital technology adoption process.

“The combination of knowledge, advice and experience from a range of industry experts and peers will add real value and depth to SMEs overcoming barriers, through to adopting the technology that is right for their business.”