Led by the University of Liverpool’s Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC), CW4.0 has collaborated with 166 SMEs across Cheshire and Warrington over the last two years. It is estimated that the CW4.0 project has already created 90 full-time jobs to date and generated an estimated £1.6 million of GVA to the region’s economy.
Part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the programme has supported manufacturers and supply chain companies to trial, adopt and embed a range of digital technologies that were new to their businesses.
From developing sophisticated new customer service tools with augmented reality to rapid prototyping using 3D printing and gaining deeper insight into processes through real-time data analytics – these interventions have helped SME manufacturers to solve challenges and develop new products.
Among the benefits experienced by SMEs, more than half (55.5%) reported that the support from CW4.0 had helped them to improve productivity, and 60% said it had helped their business grow.
Alongside the VEC, CW4.0 was delivered by the Science and Technology Facilities Council, Liverpool John Moore’s University, and the Northern Automotive Alliance.
Andrew Borland, Head of Commercialisation at the Virtual Engineering Centre, said: “Over two exciting years of collaboration, we’ve found Cheshire & Warrington’s SME manufacturers to be brimming with ideas and plans to push their businesses forward.
“With the region’s native manufacturing industries going through profound changes – from the advent of electric vehicle production, to supply chain onshoring post-COVID and Brexit – the potential for SMEs in the supply chain to capitalise on new business opportunities is vast. However, exploiting this requires businesses to change and innovate their processes and products.
“At a time when cost inflation is a significant concern, it’s vital that we continue to provide platforms to encourage and support SMEs to invest in this innovation. The lessons from CW4.0 clearly show that meaningful support will generate value.”
Paul Chapman, Growth Hub Manager at Cheshire and Warrington Growth Hub, said: “Since it started in 2021, the Cheshire and Warrington Growth Hub has seen the benefits and results for local businesses who engaged with CW4.0. For SMEs, being able to access the expertise, cutting-edge research, and latest technology, has allowed them to safely explore opportunities that they may otherwise have not pursued.
“CW4.0 has helped these businesses develop their understanding and confidence in utilising the latest technology for tangible business benefits.”