MANUFACTURING firms in East Lancashire have been among more than 100 in the North West to benefit from a new technological investment pilot scheme that helps firms acquire digital tools to help them navigate the post pandemic economic landscape.

The government backed Made Smarter initiative aims to help firms acquire digital tools such as data capture and road mapping, as well as running digital skills workshops for company leaders in partnership with Lancaster University.

Small and medium sized businesses to have benefited locally include clothing manufacturer Cookson & Clegg and engineering firm IoT Horizon, both of Blackburn, along with many more.

Cookson & Clegg managing director Patrick Grant said: "With the support and advice of Made Smarter we have been able to pursue our ambitions of improving both productivity and cost control across our operations by adopting digital technology.

“Capturing data from the shop floor and being able to monitor it in real time is an exciting first step on our digital transformation journey."

Almost 950 small and medium manufacturers have secured support, including specialised advice and £2.5 million of funding, since the launch of Made Smarter 18 months ago.

IoT Horizon managing director Deyrick Allen said: "IoT Horizon is passionate about the potential of Industry 4.0 and wants to develop our own commercially viable internet of things platform and be the ‘Go To’ company for IoT in the North West and beyond. Made Smarter support is helping us accelerate our ambitions."

104 of the businesses have now secured matched funding for 115 projects and are forecast to deliver an additional £100 million in gross value added for the North West economy over the next three years.

Made Smarter North West pilot programme director Donna Edwards said: “Reaching 104 business and 115 funded projects is a fantastic achievement - and there is much more to come."

She added: “The coronavirus pandemic has had a significant impact on manufacturing and resulted in widespread repercussions for the economy.

“Manufacturers have reacted and adapted to the different circumstances they find their businesses facing and technology has been at the heart of that response.

“While there is uncertainty, what is clear is that Made Smarter is needed more than ever to help small and medium enterprises maintain their competitive edge using technology to come back smarter and navigate the future.”