Digital expert appointed to help Marches businesses embrace digital tech as part of Made Smarter

September 1, 2021

A digital technology specialist has been appointed for the Marches region to help manufacturing and engineering businesses boost productivity and growth as part of a £1.9m programme. 

Barry Jones, one of five digital technology specialists appointed across the West Midlands, will support businesses in Herefordshire, Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin as part of the £1.9 million Made Smarter programme.  

The experts will be sharing their knowledge to improve the digital skills of employees to make a difference to the day-to-day operations of SMEs through a variety of ways including reducing costs, improving manufacturing times or helping to win more overseas contracts. 

The Made Smarter programme is being led by the West Midlands Growth Hub Cluster, which includes the Marches Growth Hub, the business support service of the Marches Local Enterprise Partnership.  

Dave Courteen, Marches Local Enterprise Partnership small business champion, said: “It is essential that our businesses and their employees have the knowledge and skills needed to make the most of the new technologies emerging all the time.  

“The Marches Growth Hub is delighted to be a part of the Made Smarter programme and I would urge all our manufacturing and engineering businesses to see if and how it can help them, particularly as we emerge from the pandemic.  

“If the last 16 months have taught us anything it is that we can quickly master new technology and that it can bring tremendous benefits.”  

Barry Jones has experience at senior management, general manager and director level in engineering, manufacturing and IT industries within major US, Japanese and European organisations, including Applications Engineering, Research and Design operating across the EAME market.  

He has also undertaken investment reviews for Impetus-Marches across Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin for Small Business Investment Programmes.  

Barry said: “I’m really looking forward to working on the Made Smarter programme with the team. I’ve worked in the manufacturing industry for many years and I’ve seen a lot of change, but it’s not always easy for SMEs to access or integrate new technologies into their businesses effectively.   

“This programme provides a great opportunity to help a broad range of businesses move up the technology ladder, embrace new technologies, provide their staff with new skills, drive performance and promote innovation, which will include collaboration with local universities.   

“I have operated my own consultancy business across the Marches area implementing technology projects for the past 12 years and worked closely with Shropshire, Telford & Wrekin and Hereford Councils on a number of business support initiatives.

“The Marches covers a large area and there are a diverse range of businesses and industries, including manufacturing, food production and farming, which all present exciting challenges and opportunities.   

“We will be reaching out and working with businesses to understand their technology needs and helping them to identify and implement new technologies in their operations, improving performance and resilience.”  

The West Midlands Growth Hubs are working closely with the West Midlands Combined Authority and their strategic partners WMG, at the University of Warwick, and the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in Coventry on Made Smarter. 

Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “There are tens of thousands of people employed by small and medium sized manufacturers in the West Midlands, and this digital support should help them and their employers adapt to new and smarter ways of working, securing jobs and businesses for the future.  

“After the devastating impact of the pandemic on our economy, it’s exactly this kind of support that will help our region’s businesses and the people they employ, recover and seize the new opportunities that digital technology provides.”  

The Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) Growth Hub is leading the one-year Made Smarter scheme with the region’s other Growth Hubs in Greater Birmingham and Solihull, the Black Country, Worcestershire, The Marches, and Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire on behalf of the West Midlands Combined Authority and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.  

As well as The Marches covered by Barry Jones, Worcestershire is covered by Martyn Mangan, Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire by Tim Kirby, the Black Country by Jit Gatcha, Coventry and Warwickshire by Paul Sullivan and Greater Birmingham will be covered by Paul, Martyn and Jit.  

To register and find out more information, please visit  

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The Marches Local Enterprise Partnership has now ceased trading and transferred all its functions to Shropshire Council working with Telford & Wrekin Council and Herefordshire Council, in line with the UK Government's plans for devolution.

The Marches LEP was established in 2011 and hands over an impressive legacy from its 13-year life. In that time the LEP invested over £196m in projects across the Marches, securing in excess of £100m of match funding and supported more than 66,000 business interactions.

The schemes supported have made tangible differences to local communities, increasing skills, creating jobs and improving the physical appearance of many towns.

We would like to thank all the LEP Board Members who have given their time freely over the life of the LEP, as well as all the staff who worked for the LEP over the years. We also want to thank our delivery partners, local education providers and local, regional and national stakeholders who helped us achieve so much.

The Marches Growth Hub will continue to support businesses and will be managed by Shropshire Council, supported by Telford and Wrekin and Herefordshire Councils. Each of the three Local Authorities will also continue to provide direct business support locally. Details of this support will be available through the Marches Growth Hub website and from the Local Authorities directly. Website: | email:

The Marches Careers Hub will continue to be delivered and will be managed by Shropshire Council, supported by Telford & Wrekin and Herefordshire Councils. Website: | email:

For any queries about Getting Building Fund (GBF), Local Growth Fund (LGF) and Marches Investment Fund (MIF) projects supported by the Marches LEP please contact:

For any finance queries please contact:

The solvent liquidation of the Marches LEP is being managed by the Evelyn Partners Limited. For any matter related to this please contact:

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