Are Growth Hubs the Answer to Manufacturers Innovating?

Are Growth Hubs the Answer to Manufacturers Innovating?

The UK Government-commissioned Made Smarter review has recommended that the North West should be the location of a pilot scheme to boost regional industry through digitalisation.

This raises practical questions about how to make it easier for businesses to adapt and change. Growth hubs offer a valuable regional network upon which to expand digitalisation and help the spread of Industry 4.0.

Head of External Affairs for The Manufacturing Technologies Association (MTA), Paul O’Donnell, discusses the role of growth hubs in helping manufacturers embrace innovation.


A Firm Focus

Regionally, there is solid support available for local businesses through a network of growth hubs. They sit within Local Enterprise Partnerships, or LEPs, working independently to meet specific business requirements.


“What’s clear about digitalisation is that it will only be effective if it’s adopted at a meaningful, grassroots level”

Paul O’Donnell, The Manufacturing Technologies Association


The MTA has reported on the true impact of manufacturing on the UK economy, and for regions to enable improvements in performance will only increase this impact.”

The brief of growth hubs has been to do a range of things to help local industry flourish. These include:

  • Helping influence and shape business support services
  • Ensuring these services are accessible and generating demand for them


“Business support is essential in driving innovation. It can help provide fresh perspectives to business owners, and offer practical solutions for them in embracing new technology.”

“Before the Made Smarter review’s recommendations, there was a certain degree of uncertainty, and even scepticism, around the effectiveness of growth hubs.  I think this reflected that for many people growth hubs were a good idea in theory, but it was unclear where, or how, they should focus their efforts.”

What the emphasis on innovation should do is provide a clear future role for growth hubs.


Business Support to Drive Innovation

“The Made Smarter report has pointed out a degree of reluctance among SMEs to adopt new technologies. It makes sense, therefore, to use an already established support network to help them do this.”


“One big issue for manufacturers is how to make digitalisation a reality”

Paul O’Donnell, The Manufacturing Technologies Association


To this end, the report has recommended the implementation of a pilot scheme in the North West region.

The Made Smarter National Adoption Pilot will focus on driving greater productivity through the adoption of digital technology.

“The North West is the ideal location for this. As one of the UK’s largest regional economies, it has the greatest manufacturing output, with a strong SME manufacturing base.”

At the same time, productivity levels in the region are 10% below the UK average, according to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA).

The goal of the pilot programme is to boost productivity through engaging some 3,000 North West manufacturers and providing intensive support to a selected 600 of them.

“They will have access to expert advice and funding to support their investment in technology solutions.  his is where growth hubs will play a critical role.”

“The pilot aims to add value to the kind of general business consultancy advice already available through growth hubs, using them as a channel to provide the kind of support SMEs need to take the next steps towards innovation.”

Growth hubs are set to be a vital piece in solving the UK’s productivity puzzle through digitalisation and innovation.  For manufacturers across the UK, the potential to innovate is there.

To discover more about The MTA and how it supports its members, please call 0207 298 6400 or visit

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