A multimillion-pound University of Sunderland project is having a critical impact on North East businesses, a new report has found.

At a time when many of the region’s manufacturing SMEs are having to re-think and readjust their practices, a University support project is proving a much-needed lifeline by adding millions in value to participating businesses.

The Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing Project (SAM) – one of the North East’s largest investment programmes – aims to help businesses become more productive and sustainable.

Phase One of the project, which ended in December 2020, has proved a huge success, providing £800,000 in matched funding as well as practical and research support to over 200 SMEs across the region.

Now, an Interim Summative Assessment of the scheme has revealed the extent to which the project is reaping rewards for those businesses involved.

SAM participants surveyed reported:

  • An overall £47.1million gross value added to businesses who engaged with SAM in Phase one
  • Growth in employment of 25.1 per cent and sales growth of 30.1 per cent between the baseline position and the business position following programme support
  • The vast majority (89.5 per cent) of businesses felt that the support they received was either of high quality or very high quality
  • 82.8 per cent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the SAM project team understood the needs of their business
  • 82.6 per cent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that the grant application process was easy

It was also revealed that SAM’s impact on innovation and new product development meant that the average TRL (Technology Readiness Level) – the scale on how new products are measured as being close to market launch – was a staggering 3.9 steps, with some clients jumping from Stage 2 up to Stage 9 due to SAM support.

The success of SAM has now seen it receive an extra £5.9million for Phase Two, which will see it extended to 2023.

Ken Teears, SAM Project Manager, said: “I’m absolutely delighted about the findings of the Interim Summative Assessment.

“We know day-in-day-out the difference our industrial experts make to companies and this report demonstrates the impact SAM Project is having on the region’s manufacturing SMEs and the impact on the North East economy.

“It’s a huge pat on the back and validates the confidence the North East LEP and Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) have in SAM when they awarded us a £5.9M project extension for Phase Two, taking us up to the end of June 2023.

“What is more impressive is that these are the figures just for the end of Phase One. I cannot wait to see what impact we will have made by 2023. So, if you’re a manufacturing SME in the North East, get in touch and see how SAM Project can supercharge your productivity, innovation and growth.”

The Project offers a range of assistance – tapping into the University’s significant academic resources, a team of industrial specialists and a number of factories with more than £1m worth of equipment – to offer both practical and research support, ensuring businesses can access a knowledge bank comprising some of the industry’s brightest brains and most advanced technology.

Professor Jon Timmis, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Commercial), said: “The University of Sunderland is committed to supporting business innovation and growth across the North East.

“The Phase One success of SAM not only demonstrates this commitment but sets a successful precedent on which we can further build.

“The continuation of this work is more vital than ever as we begin to look forward to the sector recovering from the pandemic.”