Grant helps AR Power and other SMEs to digitise their processes

A number of the region’s SMEs have benefitted from a grant fund aimed at strengthening and accelerating the region’s adoption of digital technologies.

The Next Generation Advanced Manufacturing Accelerator (N-GAMA) programme, a collaboration between the NEAA and Sunderland City Council, funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), has supported advanced manufacturing businesses within the North East Local Enterprise Partnership area (Sunderland, South Tyneside, North Tyneside, Gateshead, Newcastle, Durham, and Northumberland).

Since its launch in 2022, the N-GAMA project has exceeded its original target of assisting 20 SMEs with £400,000 worth of funds. 25 SMEs have received over £420,000 in grant funding.

Eligible SMEs have been able to access innovation support to invest in digital technologies to help make their business more competitive and differentiated. This includes improving customer experience, generation new and innovative product and service revenue streams, enhancing productivity, increasing product quality and reducing cost reductions.
The programme offered grant support of up to 40% for research and innovation projects, with an expectation that successful applicants contribute the remaining 60% of project costs.

SMEs have applied for grants to cover various expenses, from helping to cover the cost of purchasing equipment such as plant, machinery and other capital equipment, to marketing plans, website development and ecommerce, through to streamlining business processes, CRM & ERP Systems, energy monitoring systems, warehouse or stock management systems and data visualisation.

Chris Balmer, operations director at AR Power, a Washington-based designer and supplier of renewable energy solutions and recent recipient of a £50,000 N-GAMA grant, said: “AR Power has operated for a number of years and in the early days we had to design our own systems and processes for the solar industry, often in a spreadsheet or database format.

“However, there is a pressing need for us to digitise all of our processes due to the rapid nature of current growth. We are, therefore, looking to digitise processes from start to finish so that we can benefit from increased efficiencies and also ensure we remain in control of information and data, as we expand.

“The grant we have received from the Next Generation Advanced Manufacturing Accelerator will help us to smoothly manage our growth and achieve it at a faster rate. The reason for this, is that digitisation will enable us to understand our operations better and maintain a greater knowledge of the business and its drivers as it expands. Additionally, it will provide greater clarity on our marketing activity as we enter a new and increasing market. For us, this was an opportunity not to be missed.”

Paul Butler, CEO of the NEAA, said: “The N-GAMA programme is designed to help eligible SMEs within the North East advanced manufacturing industry to become more competitive and cost-effective.

“Over twenty of the region’s SMEs looking to digitise and streamline processes and develop technology, have benefitted from the grant.

“Digitisation is essential for businesses that are pushing for growth and this grant was an excellent opportunity for SMEs to invest in technology and equipment, as well as develop new products and services.

“We hope to be able to offer additional support and funding like this NGAMA programme to SMEs and larger businesses in the future.”