Government-funded initiative provides financial backing for food and drink SMEs

By William Dodds

- Last updated on GMT

Chandley Ovens was one of several SMEs to receive support. Credit: Made Smarter
Chandley Ovens was one of several SMEs to receive support. Credit: Made Smarter

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Several small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) within the food and drink sector have received technical support and financial backing from the Made Smarter initiative.

Firms including Chandley Ovens, Brightside Brewing Company, Studio Bakery, Just Bee Honey, Harbourside Products and Northern Pasta Company were among the latest wave to receive digitalisation and financial support from the government-funded initiative.

Made Smarter was developed to help SMEs adopt technologies like sensors, robotics, 3D printing and AI, and has supported more than 300 UK businesses with digitalisation over the past five years.

The projects has backed by Made Smarter are forecast to create almost 1,600 new jobs and more than 2,850 upskilled roles, while adding £242m to the economy over the next three years.

‘Digital isn’t coming – it’s arrived’

Donna Edwards, director of the Made Smarter Adoption Programme in the North West, said that initiative’s mission is to “engage with the thousands of manufacturers out there who we are certain could benefit from our support​”.

Describing the nature of the support on offer, Edwards added: "For many this may be helping them take the first step to digitise manual and paper-based systems or using sensors to capture vital production data.

“But for others with a digital infrastructure in place, they may be ready for more sophisticated, boundary-pushing technologies such as analytics, machine learning and AI, which are evolving at unprecedented speed.

"Digital isn’t coming – it’s arrived. Adopting technologies at the right time and in the right way is the key to unlocking real benefits for industry, society and the planet."

'Grant has proved a game changer'

Among the businesses to receive support, commercial bakery equipment manufacturer Chandley Ovens decided to invest in new software.

Reflecting on the role the initiative has played in helping the business progress, managing director Emma Pattison said: “As a newly formed employee-owned business, with a brand new manufacturing site and a strategy focused on building a new future for Chandley Ovens, Made Smarter has been the perfect partner. Their support has enabled us to build an IT platform suited for our rapidly growing service business, to procure modern equipment and to develop our product ranges to lead the way in control, energy efficiency and ease of use.”

Meanwhile, Carley Friedrich, director of the family-run Brightside Brewing Company, explained that beer maker had used the funding to analyse its strengths and weaknesses and gain a better understanding of the firm’s “digital needs​”.

"The grant we received towards our kegging equipment has also undoubtedly been a game changer," ​Friedrich continued.

"This investment gives us more control over a process which was previously totally outsourced, thereby providing more stability and autonomy for the business, increasing profitability and also upskilling our brewery team."

Finally, Allison Metcalf, managing director of Studio Bakery, used Made Smarter support to invest in a new cutting machine.

She added: “At a time where we were rapidly expanding, they were there to support us. New technology has increased our productivity and made us more efficient. We're now able to meet our increased orders and we're ready for the next stage of our expansion.”

In other news, the top TikTok food trends of 2023 have been revealed.​​

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