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Programme supporting SME manufacturers gets £6.5m boost
Small to medium-sized manufacturers across England have been given a £6.5m funding boost to help them recover from the Covid-19 pandemic and address key barriers to growth.
The Manufacturing Growth Programme (MGP), which is funded by the European Regional Development Fund and delivered by Oxford Innovation Services, has been extended until December 2022 and will give a further 2,800 companies access to industry experts and grants to tackle immediate business issues and support improvement plans.
This additional backing is expected to safeguard and create 3,500 jobs and takes the total package of support the initiative is able to deliver to £18.3m across 17 regions, with businesses in Sheffield able to apply for the first time.
Firms are given access to a dedicated local manufacturing growth manager, who will use GROWTHmapper – an in-depth business diagnostic tool – to develop an individual action plan and support business projects, including environmental improvements, leadership and management, marketing, quality and supply chain development.
Since its launch in October 2016, the Manufacturing Growth Programme has supported more than 3,000 companies.
Martin Coats, managing director of the Manufacturing Growth Programme, said: “All the media attention is on the headline manufacturers and how they are coping in the wake of Covid-19. It’s our job to look at how the smaller manufacturers supporting these big businesses are performing and what we can do to help them. Our track record in delivering on-the-ground expert support was pivotal in securing an additional £6.5m of funding that is ring-fenced for SME manufacturers to overcome barriers to growth and return to doing what they do best – making things.”
A recent survey delivered by MGP, in partnership with South West Manufacturing Advisory Service, revealed an urgent need for greater and faster financial support from the government as they confront decreasing sales, production volumes and the prospect of job cuts amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
Coats added: “It is no great surprise to see that every indicator for confidence among firms appears to have worsened over the last six months. That said, it is heartening to see that some companies are adapting to the situation by diversifying their processes and product ranges in all manner of innovative ways. While the number of projects we have supported has been maintained since the start of the Covid-19 crisis, demand has shifted from the larger SMEs towards micro businesses.
“This has also led to a change in the type of assistance. There is more demand for shorter-term marketing and product development projects and less for productivity and capacity building projects. As the economy recovers, it will be important to shift this pattern back, ensuring that support reaches larger SME manufacturers as well and delivers projects that rebuild capacity.”
Huddersfield-based Visual Systems Healthcare, a specialist in custom designed visual communication solutions for the NHS and private hospitals across the country, engaged with the Manufacturing Growth Programme to support production of a new solution.
Chris Hunter, managing director, said: “Working with MGP has proven invaluable to the resilience and sustainability of our manufacturing operation, especially during these challenging times. Without this assistance, we would have been unable to fulfil the urgent time driven orders received from the Nightingale hospitals during April.”