NEAA encourages SMEs to apply for remaining £67k digitalisation grant fund

The North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA) is encouraging the region’s SMEs not to miss out on a grant fund aimed at strengthening and accelerating the region’s adoption of digital technologies.

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

So far, 20 of the region’s SMEs have accessed £333,000 of the £400,000 fund.

Eligible SMEs can access innovation support leading to investment in digital technologies that help companies become more competitive and differentiated, through providing new levels of customer experience, new and innovative product and service revenue streams, as well as improvements in productivity, higher product quality and cost reductions.

The fund is open to SMEs only and offers grant support of up to 40% for research and innovation projects, with an expectation that successful applicants contribute the remaining 60% of project costs.

Eligible SMEs can apply for grants to help cover the cost, for example, of purchasing equipment such as plant, machinery and other capital equipment, marketing plans, website development and ecommerce, streamlining business processes, CRM & ERP Systems, energy monitoring systems, warehouse or stock management systems, knowledge transfer and research and development costs, specialist consultancy support and digitisation and data visualisation.

Chris Balmer, operations director, 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 spreadsheet or data base 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.

“This is an opportunity not to be missed and I would encourage other eligible SMEs in the region to apply before it is too late.”

Paul Butler, CEO, North East Automotive Alliance, 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.

“Twenty of the region’s SMEs looking to digitise and streamline processes and develop technology, have already benefitted from the grant and we encourage others not to miss out on the remaining grants available.

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

SMEs interested in the N-GAMA programme should contact the North East Automotive Alliance for more information. The fund is open until the end of June, and businesses are encouraged to apply as soon as possible for the remaining £67,000 grant pot.