SAM steps up support for SME manufacturers hit by Covid-19 crisis

A NORTH East support project set up to help SME manufacturers grow, has adapted its grants to assist businesses through the Covid-19 crisis.

The Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (SAM) Project – which offers a range of support to SME manufacturing businesses in the North East LEP area - is making additional funding available to help companies that have adapted during the Coronavirus crisis.

Two new funds have been set up to replace the project’s original grant fund, and will be used to support companies during the global pandemic.

The first will help North East businesses that are now making PPE for the NHS or other frontline healthcare teams, with match funding grants of up to £10,000 (terms and conditions apply) and the second will help companies that have diversified or adapted in order to stay in business and operational during and after Covid-19. Match funding grants of up to £10,000 are also available for these companies.

Ken Teears, project manager at SAM, said: “These are challenging times, and many small manufacturing businesses will be feeling the strain.

“We have a limited pot of cash, but we are keen to see it help as many manufacturers as possible, as they operate through this pandemic. The new funds will support those that have had to invest in order to either support the national effort to battle this virus, making vital PPE to support frontline workers, as well as those who have diversified in order to stay in business.”

SAM is also offering supporting to businesses that are equipping healthcare professionals with much-needed PPE. Staff from SAM and the University of Sunderland’s Automotive & Manufacturing Advanced Practice (AMAP) institute have designed and are now manufacturing PPE for frontline workers and NHS staff.

Companies can claim for the defrayed cost of materials being used for the manufacture of such PPE, which are not being sold at a profit and are being provided to the NHS and other essential public services free of charge, or at an ‘at cost’ rate. The materials must have been bought after March 1, for PPE manufacture only, to be eligible.

The second grant is available for manufacturing SMEs in the North East that have diversified or adapted in order to stay in business and operational during and after Covid-19. Applications can be for new capital equipment, resources or other expenditure - excluding working capital such as salaries, rent or rates - to help their company survive, innovate, adapt and sustain themselves through the crisis. This could include the purchase of laptops to enable staff to work from home, buying capital kit to help diversify income and stay afloat or take advantage of changes in market conditions. Both 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. An expression of interest form will be made available in the coming days. In the interim, please contact sam.project@sunderland.ac.uk to register your interest.