A NUMBER of companies are already benefitting from Welsh Government’s Business Productivity Enhancement Programme (BPEP) funding as part of the £100 million, ten-year Tech Valleys programme focusing on the area of Blaenau Gwent in South Wales.
Building on the region’s longstanding manufacturing heritage, Tech Valleys aims to capitalise on the opportunities arising from the fourth industrial revolution – particularly in the areas of 5G, battery technology, digital and cyber research and application – supporting high value, sustainable jobs, attracting investment and creating opportunities for the region.
Ebbw Vale is one of Wales’ eight Enterprise Zones, meaning it’s a priority area for business support, skills, first-class infrastructure, financial incentives, and property and development opportunities.BPEP was established in collaboration with the Welsh Government’s European Funded SMART Innovation programme, and recipients so far include Advanced Furniture, Swan EMS, JC Mouldings, and Express Contract Drying (ECD). One example of how the funding has been used is EDC who were able to use the grant to buy an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system.
Nick Ball, Operations Director at ECD, said:
“The grant supports our plan to adopt technology specifically designed to better manage our business processes in an integrated and real-time manner, reducing duplicating in capturing and management of data leading to increase efficiency and traceability. The ERP system is a key investment in ECD’s operations, efficiency, intelligence and productivity. This will strengthen our existing business and support further business expansion in the near future.”
ECD is a manufacturer of spray-dried microencapsulated food ingredients and a provider of toll spray drying and powder blending services. Business growth there is strong, driven by increasing demand for active sports nutrition, meal replacement, immune support and wellbeing blends, and for traditional stable foods/ingredients for use in home cooking, reducing the reliance on long supply chains from China and India. ECD is committed to the area. A recent investment of £5.5m has expanded the company’s premises on Rassau Industrial Estate, Ebbw Vale, and an increase in staff by 50% to 60 people.
Launched just before the pandemic, BPEP is working with manufacturing firms to increase efficiency, develop new products and explore new markets, and progress is encouraging. The BPEP grants are awarded following a productivity diagnostic review by the SMART Cymru team, covering up to 70% of the cost of the equipment required to increase efficiency and boost productivity.
Cllr Dai Davies, Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Regeneration and Economic Development from Blaenau Gwent County Borough Council, said:
“ECD has shown a great commitment to growth in this area, so it’s entirely fitting that they are one of the numerous companies to benefit from the BPEP grant. We need to equip these expanding manufacturers in Tech Valleys to enable them to boost the local economy, and provide sustainable jobs and future opportunities for local people.”
Another company to benefit is Advanced Furniture Operations. Director Geraint Griffiths said that with the grant: “Advanced Furniture will be able to quickly and efficiently bring new products to the market place through a new computer-aided design and manufacturing package.”