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One year on since launch, LCR 4.0 has been successful in bringing together and providing practical support to almost 100 Liverpool City Region businesses in the manufacturing space through digital innovation.

The pioneering programme was recently praised as a ‘best practice initiative’ in the Government’s Made Smarter Review for its ambition to help 300 regional SMEs explore the challenges and opportunities of Industry 4.0 (4IR), within its first three years, increasing productivity and de-risking innovation.

To date, nearly 100 businesses have been supported by the project which aims to open up the opportunities that 4IR technologies, such as augmented and virtual reality, Internet of Things and cloud computing, can have on small business processes and productivity.

Systems integration has been identified as the biggest area of demand in the project’s first year; with nearly 25 per cent of those businesses engaged in the programme accessing support around this. Systems integration enables businesses to combine digital and physical assets to increase connectivity, ensuring that maximum value is achieved in the manufacturing process.

The programme, which runs until 2019, also expects to enable collaborations between 200 businesses and partners, support 70 new product development cases across a number of firms and create 60 new jobs in supported businesses across the city region.

From research and development, to knowledge transfer and the acceleration of ideas from concept through to commercialisation, each of the SMEs involved in the project is receiving ongoing practical support and technical expertise from the LCR 4.0 partners.

Simon Reid, sector manager for advanced manufacturing at the Liverpool City Region LEP, said: “LCR 4.0 is well on the way to transforming the manufacturing space within the Liverpool City Region. As the industry continues to evolve, there is a real sense of proactivity among SMEs when it comes to implementing change and embracing the latest digital technologies.

“At the city region’s first Digital Summit in October, Metro Mayor Steve Rotheram highlighted that the region is in line to become a globally important centre in the fourth industrial revolution, as evidenced by the numerous mentions of LCR 4.0 in the government’s recent Made Smarter Review.

“We are delighted with the uptake so far, but there is still more to be done to integrate districts from all corners of the LCR. Connectivity and collaboration will be key to achieving this goal in the next phase of the project.”

As well as manufacturing, the LCR4.0 programme also benefits the digital, scientific, engineering and sensor technology sectors.