Industry pick and place

North East manufacturing should drive UK recovery

A team of North East experts that helped stimulate over £40m in sector growth has backed the region to supercharge the UK’s economic recovery.

The rallying call – made by the Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (SAM) Project – follows a CBI report released today [23 April], revealing UK manufacturers have recorded the sharpest rise in optimism since 1973, amid growing demand as Covid lockdown measures are relaxed.

The SAM Project, a £10.9million ERDF-backed initiative set up to provide expert advice and funding to North East SME manufacturers, witnessed first-hand the key role the region’s manufacturers played in keeping the nation’s cogs turning during the pandemic.

Scores of SME manufacturers from across the region turned to SAM for support during the crisis, as they invested in new machinery and process improvement to diversify, innovate and grow, and project manager Ken Teears believes this ‘tenacity’ and the sector’s desire to ‘relentlessly innovate’ will play a key role in driving the UK’s recovery post-covid.

He said: “Manufacturing was one of the hardest hit sectors in the early days of the pandemic, with social distancing bringing entire production lines to a halt and export and import restrictions crippling supply chains.

“Yet, in true British manufacturing style, organisations of all shape and size showed incredible tenacity and – through their ever-relentless desire to innovate – helped not only play a key role in creating PPE and supporting the fight against the pandemic, but also in getting the economy back on track and it’s fantastic to see today’s report by the CBI proving that this is rightly continuing to breed confidence in the sector.

“During the crisis, the SAM Project helped scores of the region’s manufacturers invest in new machinery, process improvement and inevitably helped create jobs when unemployment was falling at its fastest pace in living history, so it’s fantastic to see optimism rising again and businesses starting to feel more positive about the future.”

Since its launch in January 2018, the first phase of the SAM Project (up to December 2020) – helped drive £47.1 million in GVA to the hundreds of SMEs that engaged with the project, delivering over £800,000 in matched-funding grants and creating 290 jobs.

This success led to the programme, which is led by the University of Sunderland and aligned to the Northern Powerhouse Initiative, receiving a £5.9 million extension earlier this year, taking the project to June 2023, and Teears is urging businesses thinking of going for growth post-pandemic to find out how they can benefit from its support.

He added: “The SAM Project has the perfect package of support for growing and innovating manufacturing SMEs. We have fully funded expert technical support and a large grant fund with over £1million of match funding to be allocated for companies to invest in new machinery. It’s programmes like ours that will be key to helping drive the sector forward post-covid.

“I’d urge any SME currently manufacturing or thinking of manufacturing, to contact the team today and find out how we could benefit their business.”