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A University of Sunderland project which aims to support manufacturers across the North East has secured an extra £6million in funding.

The University’s Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing Project (SAM) - one of the region’s largest investment programmes - aims to help businesses become more productive and sustainable.

Since then, the programme – which was due to end in December 2020 - has proved a huge success, providing £800,000 in matched-funding - as well as practical and research support to over 200 SMEs across the region.

Now, it is set to continue its work through to 2023 after securing the extra £6million.

Professor Jon Timmis, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Commercial), at the University, said: “We are delighted to have been awarded this grant to continue the important work in our support of manufacturing in the North East.  

“The University is committed to ensuring we support businesses in this sector to innovate and grow.  The work in SAM is critically important as we start to plan recovery due to the result of the pandemic.”

The pioneering project was originally part-funded by ERDF – with a £2.6m commitment - and the University of Sunderland and industry, which invested £2.5m, and is aimed solely at small and medium sized manufacturers.

The initiative offers a range of assistance – tapping into the University’s significant academic resources, a team of industry specialists and a number of factories with more than £1m worth of equipment - to offer both practical and research support, ensuring businesses can access a knowledge bank comprising some of the industry’s brightest brains and most advanced technology.

This the extension will see the Technical Research and Development team grow, to offer even greater specialist industry support to companies.

Ken Teears, project manager at SAM, said: “During the last two years, we’ve provided funding and support to scores of businesses and have witnessed first-hand the impact this has had, from safeguarding and creating jobs to transforming entire production lines.

“Since the pandemic hit the UK in March, the impact it has had on the nation’s manufacturing sector has been catastrophic. However, it has provided opportunities such as re-shoring and bringing back in-house previously sub-contracted works, as well as business diversification.

“Now, more than ever, manufacturers need our support and this funding boost will go a long way to helping many of the region’s SMEs adapt and grow as we look to get through this crisis and keep Britain’s economy moving.”

In phase 1, SAM provided matched-funded grants of up to £50,000 to SMEs across the North East LEP area for capital, product validation, equipment and other financial inhibitors to drive the strategic development of both product and process.

This will continue in phase two, with an additional £1Million being put into the grant pot, together with some tweaks to the intervention rates (now at 25% in Tyne and Wear and Northumberland and 35% in County Durham).

Kate Buckle
Article by Kate Buckle
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