16 February 2017

New support initiative aims to replace MAS for SMEs

A new £9.7 million business support initiative, launched this week, promises to unlock the potential of thousands of SME manufacturers across the UK.

The Manufacturing Growth Programme (MGP), funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and delivered by Economic Growth Solutions (EGS), aims to fill the void left by the closure of the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS), in 2015.

MGP will provide access to specialist assistance for firms, via a 19-strong network of manufacturing growth managers, to help them grow and improve. Companies will be able to apply for grants of up to £3500. The support of the growth managers can be used for schemes including leadership and management training, R&D and lean manufacturing. It is open to all SME manufacturers in the West Midlands, as well as companies in parts of the East Midlands, East of England and Yorkshire and Humber.

“Since MAS was abruptly axed at the end of 2015, manufacturers have not had access to a support programme that is tailored to their exact requirements and delivered by people who know the sector,” explained Lorraine Holmes, chief executive of EGS. “This has all changed with the launch of MGP and we now have funding in place to help over 3,200 firms to tackle operational issues, make the most of new opportunities and boost the skills of their workplace.”

The programme will be delivered by March 2019, and Holmes encouraged companies to “come forward and take advantage of this assistance” via the network of growth managers. They will work with firms to complete a strategic business review and develop an action plan.

This will highlight the areas of improvement required and, from there, a number of industry specialists will be explored before the client chooses the expert they want to work with to complete the project.

The programme offers grants of 35% of the total project cost and is working closely with a number of LEPs and their respective Growth Hubs to ensure manufacturers are signposted to other initiatives that may be able to help.

Chris Beck

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