The Smart Manufacturing Alliance is a joint venture between the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority and economic development company, Opportunity Peterborough.

Plans for the Alliance have received an additional boost with Opportunity Peterborough’s successful bid for a £1.2m ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) business support programme. This will fund an innovation programme of direct business support and a grant scheme to encourage investment in new technologies and research and development.

The Smart Manufacturing Alliance is expected to help manufacturers generate an additional £50m in GVA over the next 10 years for a sector which is vital to the local economy. Manufacturing makes up 13% of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough’s economic output and provides employment for 40,500 people, or 9% of the areas workforce – making it one of the biggest sectors by employment.

Over 2,300 manufacturers operate in the region, including major manufacturers such as Caterpillar Perkins, Codem Composites, Marshalls Aerospace and Defence Group, ALS Pharmaceuticals, and Metalcraft.

Smaller firms operating at the cutting-edge of industry include 3D printing specialists, Photocentric, composites specialists TRB Lightweight Structures, racing car manufacturer, Radical Sports Cars, on top of a world-class inkjet printing cluster around Cambridge.

The Alliance has been established after the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Independent Economic Review (CPIER) and the Local Industrial Strategy (LIS) highlighted that a network would safeguard the growth, innovation, and competitiveness of the sector in the region.

In response to this, Peterborough’s economic development company, Opportunity Peterborough, applied to the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority Business Board to help fund the Alliance through the Local Growth Fund as a joint venture network.

Opportunity Peterborough delivers a portfolio of long and short term projects to address economic and sector challenges. This includes The Skills Service, a brokerage between industry and education to address skills gaps and help young people prepare for a rewarding career. Opportunity Peterborough also continues to deliver the city’s smart city and circular economy programmes, Future Peterborough, which have run for seven years. It is currently involved in the GrowIN4.0 and BLUEPRINT projects, both EU funded and promote international collaboration.

A steering group of local industry leaders will ensure the Alliance tackles the most pressing sector challenges and expands into relevant emerging markets. Recruitment is underway for a range of expert roles within the Alliance which will help manufacturers improve productivity and performance.

The Smart Manufacturing Alliance will aim to address five areas of focus set out in the Combined Authority’s Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Sector Strategy:

1. Network and supply chains– Building supply chains through effective cross-sector innovation networks

2. Strength and opportunities – Mapping advanced materials in the local supply chain and exploring the Manufacturing ‘Blue Ocean’ – opening up new markets to create new demand rather than focusing on growing shares in existing markets.

3. Space and capability – Developing incubation spaces and mapping technological capabilities

4. Support – Revolutionising and revitalising the business environment

5. Skills – Creating an effective, business-led skills supply chain, particularly supporting STEM education in schools and colleges through industry-led apprenticeship qualifications up to graduate level

It will achieve these outcomes by providing members with specific benefits including:

  • Supporting businesses to identify and adopt Industry 4.0 technologies such as Internet of Thing (IoT) and automation, as well as new business models such as Circular Economy and Product-as-a-Service, in order to drive innovation, productivity, and competiveness.
  • Better connecting and strengthening relationships between industry, universities, researchers, training providers, centres of excellence, and schools in a coordinated and collaborative cluster to drive sector growth.
  • Sharing of knowledge, best practice and ideas. Providing benchmarking, training workshops, and learning programs to develop better informed leaders and a higher skilled workforce.