Local manufacturers are being urged to sign up to a new programme that will help them adopt digital technology to transform the way they work.

Made Smarter Adoption North East connects manufacturing businesses with less than 250 staff to specialist technology experts who will identify tools, innovation and skills that can boost output, cut costs and make them more competitive.

Firms will also be given support to access grant funding to buy the technology and equipment, with further cash available for companies looking to create student and graduate jobs as digital interns to help roll out the technology.

The technologies that businesses could take advantage of include automation, robotics, sensor technology, 3D Printing, artificial intelligence and virtual reality.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “Made Smarter isn’t only about advice, it will also help create roles for young people studying right now or leaving education, giving them real-world work experience so they can learn the skills they need for a rewarding career right here across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool.

Double Eleven COO Mark South, the Tees Valley Local Enterprise Partnership’s Digital lead said: “Bringing together our digital and manufacturing sectors will allow for creating and sustaining competitive advantages, driving demand for high value skills as well as local, digital-physical supply chains to meet these new opportunities.

“Whether it’s to improve continuity by helping more companies to run virtually, improving efficiency by using AI to work out the best way to cut up your materials to reduce wastage, utilising 3D printing to reduce the need for tooling, improving productivity by having a digital copy of a product that can be edited far faster than its physical counterpart, the applications and potential are many and profound.”

The Government-backed Made Smarter programme was established following an industry-led review of how the UK manufacturing sector can thrive by adopting digitalisation.

The programme is being delivered by Tees Valley Business, the region’s one-stop shop for business support, established by the Tees Valley Mayor. The Tees Valley Business Growth Fund is receiving support from the European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.