North East manufacturers urged to tap into innovation grant scheme

A GRANT scheme set up to support SME manufacturers during the pandemic is urging eligible businesses to apply for funding before time runs out.

The Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (SAM) Project – which offers a range of support to SME manufacturing businesses in the North East LEP area – launched a new fund in March to help companies that have adapted during the Coronavirus crisis. The fund provides support to companies that have had to diversify or adapt in order to stay in business and operational during and after Covid-19, with match funding grants of up to £10,000 available.

Ken Teears, project manager at SAM, said: “The feedback we’ve received from the region’s manufacturing community so far has been fantastic. However, we know that there are still hundreds of businesses out there that have been affected by the pandemic and are eligible to tap into this support, but are yet to contact us.”

Applications can be for new capital equipment or external expertise - excluding working capital, salaries, rent or rates - to help their company survive, adapt and sustain themselves through and after the crisis. Companies looking to innovate and grow are still encouraged to apply even if their capital investment is not specifically as a result of COVID-19.

This could include buying capital kit to help diversify income, bringing outsourced processes and parts manufacture in-house, such as re-shoring parts made overseas to safeguard supply chains, improvements required in manufacturing operations as a result of social distancing measures and government guidelines, or any manufacturing and production specific capital investment to help the company diversify, stay afloat or take advantage of changes in market conditions. Grants are offered at a 50% rate in County Durham and 40% rate in Tyne and Wear and Northumberland.

Mr Teears added: “The project has taken the decision to limit maximum grants to £10,000 grant value, to allow us to support as many companies as possible to stay afloat, adapt and maintain operations through Covid-19. We believe that sharing the funding around as best as possible, with a limited pot to draw from, will ensure more businesses are able to survive during these challenging times.”

Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (SAM) is a collaboration between European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and University of Sunderland, that was set up to support North East (LEP) SME manufacturers to explore and introduce new technology to improve their products or processes. It was funded with a £2.6m commitment from ERDF and £2.5m from the University of Sunderland, and is aimed solely at small and medium sized manufacturers (under 250 employees), with an annual turnover of less than €50m (£45m approx.)

The project offers four key support functions to businesses that are gearing up to grow, including access to technical expertise, with industrial specialists using their skill and expertise to guide businesses through the process of understanding and implementing technology; R&D, with a team of researchers able to support with the development of new products and processes; factories and facilities, including access to £1m of industry-leading advanced technology and equipment; and its grants scheme, that offers financial assistance to businesses that qualify.

To find out more about SAM, visit www.samprojectuos.co.uk or contact sam.project@sunderland.ac.uk