Made Smarter Appoint BAE Systems’ Andrea Thompson As Chair Of Steering Board

Posted 10th January 2019
6 minutes read
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Liverpool City Region firms Red Ninja and ABB Ltd to help oversee roll-out of £20m business support programme for North West manufacturers


Made Smarter, the recently launched £20 million initiative to help the North West’s manufacturing sector through the adoption of more industrial digital technologies, has appointed Andrea Thompson as the Chair of its steering board.

Based at BAE Systems in Lancashire, Ms Thompson is BAE’s Managing Director for Europe & International Programmes. This includes responsibility for BAE’s role in the F-35 Lightning II fighter aircraft programme, the world’s largest defence project.

Prior to this Andrea spent several years working in the United States, primarily in the automotive sector, before returning to the UK to work for major names including Leyland Trucks and Rolls Royce.

In her role as Chair of the Made Smarter steering group Andrea will oversee the successful development and operational delivery of the Made Smarter programme.

Joining her on the board, which features over a dozen representatives drawn from manufacturing firms from across the North West, will be Lee Omar from technology design agency Red Ninja who are based at Liverpool Science Park, and Ian Funnell from advanced manufacturing firm ABB who are based at Daresbury Park. 

Lee and Ian will help monitor progress of the pilot project and report on learnings which will help to inform the proposed national roll-out of the Made Smarter concept.

Other outputs will include the ongoing promotion of Made Smarter locally, regionally and nationally, and the strengthening of relationships between Made Smarter and other partners working across the advanced manufacturing agenda in the North West.

The board will also be responsible for ensuring good governance during the lifetime of the Made Smarter North West pilot.  

Commenting on her appointment as Chair, Ms Thompson said: “Having spent many years working in global industries like engineering, automotive and aerospace I know how respected and admired the North West of England’s manufacturing tradition is.

“However, much of this is down to the legacy of the first industrial revolution which started in this region. With Made Smarter we now have a real opportunity to kick-start a new era of technology-led manufacturing, driven by innovative and ambitious SMEs, throughout the whole of the North West.

“I am very proud to have been appointed to the role of Chair for the steering group, and I am relishing the opportunity to helping shape and develop this exciting project which has the potential to transform the region’s industrial economy.”

Red Ninja’s Lee Omar said: “UK Manufacturing needs a major upgrade, Made Smarter is where to download this upgrade”.”

ABB’s Ian Funnell said: “I am delighted that the pilot is open for business and we can now start to help manufacturers improve their productivity and competitiveness by adopting industrial digitalisation’”

Made Smarter was officially launched before Christmas in Liverpool. Backed by government and some of the world’s biggest businesses, the Made Smarter North West programme is set to engage with 3,000 SME manufacturers based in Cheshire and Warrington, Cumbria, Lancashire, Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City Region to boost productivity.

Companies that get involved in the project will get the chance to access match funded support and advice regarding how new technologies could revolutionise their manufacturing processes and reap the benefits of more efficient production.

Around 600 North West manufacturing SMEs will also qualify for more intensive business support, gaining access to match-funded grants, bespoke consultancy, mentoring and other resources which will help them to accelerate commercial growth.

Embracing the principles of Made Smarter could also help to open up new markets, increase exports and create thousands of additional high-skilled, high-value jobs in the region. Companies interested in registering for more details should visit  or contact the Local Growth Hub.