WMCA secures total of £7m to help SMEs embrace technology

Anne Boyd (Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire LEP), Tim Mulqueen (Ramfoam), Mark Swift (WMG SME Group, University of Warwick), Andy Street (Mayor of the West Midlands) and Craig Humphrey (CW LEP Growth Hub)

The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has secured nearly £7m from the Government in total, in an effort to help the region’s businesses embrace digital technology.

The WMCA says the Made Smarter initiative has already helped more than 200 SMEs in the West Midlands digitise their work, improve employees’ skills and become more productive since the scheme was launched the region in 2021.

The scheme, specifically designed to aid manufacturing and engineering firms has received an extra £2.3m from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) to continue its work for another three years.

More than 150 businesses have already signed up to benefit from this second phase of the scheme.

This announcement comes as part of the Manufacturing Showcase which was opened today by Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands.

Andy Street said: “I’m thrilled that we have succeeded in securing this extra funding from Government to help our region’s manufacturing and engineering firms to embrace digital technology.

“Prior to the pandemic we had the fastest growing economy outside of London and enhancing our digital capabilities will help us bounce back – getting back on track towards renewed growth and generating high quality job opportunities for local residents”.

The Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub is leading the Made Smarter scheme alongside Growth Hubs in Greater Birmingham and Solihull, the Black Country, Worcestershire Business Central, The Marches, and Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire on behalf of the West Midlands Combined Authority and BEIS.

The Hubs are also working closely with the WMCA and their strategic partners WMG, University of Warwick, and the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in Coventry to tap into the expertise of their digital manufacturing specialists.

Craig Humphrey, the managing director of the CWLEP Growth Hub said: “Phase One of Made Smarter in the West Midlands was a runaway success with the scheme helping over 200 businesses across the region get the support they needed to access the latest digital innovations and expertise to help them grow and become more productive.

“Often, manufacturing and engineering SMEs know that there are areas where they can improve but have neither the time nor the capital to take those big steps to enhance their business.

Ramfoam, which makes foam products for the military and other organisations, was one of the first businesses to sign up to the Made Smarter programme.

Last year, Ramfoam adapted its manufacturing practices to produce two million face visors a week at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.