A unique programme aimed at getting manufacturers to boost productivity through the adoption of Industry 4.0 technology was launched today (Jan 28).

BAE Systems’ Academy for Skills & Knowledge in Lancashire hosted the launch of the Access programme to an audience of leading regional manufacturers and leaders from education, government and SMEs

Prof Juergen Maier CBE, CEO of Siemens, was the keynote speaker and was followed by a number of SMEs, apprentices and students who are already embracing new technology like AI, 3D printing and big data.

Spearheaded by Mo Isap, CEO of North West specialist technology training and consultancy service IN4.0 PLC, the programme has been designed through a joint venture with the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and in collaboration with NatWest’s entrepreneur accelerator.

The programme is also supported by BAE Systems and will provide access to specialist advisers from the £20m Made Smarter North West pilot, which aims to help start-ups and SME manufacturers boost productivity through technology.

A key part of IN4.0’s business model is to recruit top graduate talent nurtured through the IN4.0 School, which will equip them with the skills they need to be employed by the company as technical disruptors.

The school will drive high value employment and business start-up opportunities for graduates and enable them to support the delivery of IN4.0 ‘Access’.

Isap says that by taking advantage of new technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), Industrial internet of things, virtual reality (VR), robotics and 3D printing, companies can increase productivity and global competitiveness.

He said IN4.0’s mission is to forge collaborations between business and education to help seize the opportunities brought about by technological transformation.

As well as being the CEO of Siemens, Maier is the chair of the Made Smarter Commission. He talked about the great work being delivered through IN4.0’s partnership with UCLan and praised the Made Smarter North West pilot between government and industry.

It includes match-funding opportunities and the provision of dedicated technical and business support for manufacturing SMEs.

Dave Holmes, manufacturing director (Air) at BAE Systems, said: “The future is very exciting and we need a collective approach to addressing the challenges that industry faces. The IN4.0 Access accelerator programme offers a great opportunity for SMEs in the North West the gain the necessary skills and technologies required to become fit for the future.”

Darren Pirie, head of entrepreneur proposition and experience at NatWest, said: “NatWest is proud to be working with IN4.0 at UCLan to support the manufacturing sector and to share our expertise to help accelerate these UK businesses.

“Supporting entrepreneurs is a key priority for NatWest and our dedicated entrepreneur accelerator programme consisting of bespoke business coaching, mentoring and ecosystem and peer to peer connectivity is specifically designed to help entrepreneurs that want to start, grow and scale their businesses.”

The event was hosted by BusinessCloud editor Chris Maguire.

The Access programme will start in April 2019 and will run in three sub regions, Lancashire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside, several times a year. It will include seven events, including disruptive leadership and technology innovation workshops. Find out more about Access at www.in40.co.uk