Discover the Programme

Programme Overview

The SME innovation support offer ensures beneficiaries secure access to the expertise and guidance they need to build knowledge and take forward new products and applications.

The SME programme is a blend between flexible 1-2-1 consultancy and a blend of virtual and face to face workshops. There is no cost to participating companies, subject to SME eligibility within the Greater Manchester area.

1-2-1 Consultancy

Consultants and academics from various backgrounds are available to discuss your objectives for automation or how automation could address specific challenges in your business. They can provide expertise on the technical aspects and challenges for a specific automation project and provide guidance around practical implementation, including installation, operator training and funding available. The consultancy consists of collaboratively exploring the company’s culture, products, and goals to identify and excite them with potential opportunities.

Through this programme, you can gain a greater understanding of automation and de-risk your next steps. After an initial meeting with a member of our Business Development or Technical team, a team member who has the best suited knowledge and experience will be assigned to you to define a potential project.


The benefits to the company include insight on potential projects through the knowledge and experienced of the consultant in the target field.  Early benefits include the considered feasibility of vaguely or poorly defined projects or tasks, and factors to consider and quantify before tackling them – for the greatest success.  

Our clients approach us to introduce robotics and automation into tasks that are dull, dirty, or dangerous. We have provided solutions to improve productivity and task robots with repetitive and hazardous tasks. We are honest about practical solutions and in some cases have shown that tasks are not appropriate for robotics and automation. As well as meeting the aims of the customer project, we can utilise our diverse engineering backgrounds to produce innovative solutions that have not been thought about.


If your company is looking to take its first steps into robotics and automation, the NERIC team can help you take advantage of potential opportunities and navigate common pitfalls. We commonly work with businesses who have never worked with robotics and automation but want to know if it is right for their business at this stage. If your company already uses robotics and automation, the NERIC team can advise options for enhancing your current equipment, adding to your process capability, or making your equipment work together more efficiently.

A 1-2-1 consultancy is where we get to know you, your business and then discuss possible robotic and automated solutions through either a site visit or an online meeting. We will then produce some options of where robotics and automation can really help your business and focus our research in this area. This research could be in the form of researching robotic viability or de-risking a project using robotic facilities. At the end of the research, we will review our findings and discuss the next steps with you, whether this is further research, a collaboration to introduce a solution into your workplace, training or help to apply for larger funding.


The new North of England Robotics Innovation Centre (NERIC) would like to welcome SMEs to a fully funded workshops designed to provide an interactive introduction to Robotics & Automation through the lens of an SME. Here at NERIC, we have launched a new SME support programme, teaming up expert academics and experienced robotics consultants in the field of Robotics and Automation, to develop and deliver SME workshops.

The workshops include group interactive sessions, which are a fantastic opportunity for businesses to network and connect. The programme also includes one-to-one sessions with our NERIC Robotics Team and University of Salford Academic expertise for eligible SMEs, enabling companies to take away tailored business strategy and action plans.

Research & Analysis


Pre-adoption research of robotics is a way that we can find the right application of robots for your business. Rather than shoehorning a robotic solution into your business, we have a research period where we find a solution and then address problems that may arise if you were to adopt a solution. We can also de-risk a process by proving it with our in-house expertise and using our robotic facilities.

Post Adoption

Post-adoption research and analysis is a way that we can help your business make the most of an existing robotic solution. We can iron out any production issues and even train staff on the programming or maintenance of robots. Providing alternative tasks for the robot may be something we can assist with so you can ensure your investment is not sat idle.

A post-adoption company has more clearly defined idea and concepts, based on their familiarity and level of use of robots. We can support post-adoption companies with modelling system performance and optimisation or the introduction of additional tech to improve working conditions, quality and or productivity.

Meet the consultants

Dr Sam Ashworth

Previous roles have included roles at BAE (British Aerospace) Systems working as a Materials and Process Engineer and a Structural Engineer on a variety of military aircraft. Most recently I have worked at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) within the Composites Centre, focusing on machining of composite materials with AMRC partners and SMEs. My full experience can be found here.

Keelan Toal

I started my engineering career at a design and manufacture business with less than twenty employees, designing installations and systems for factories and processing plants. From there I worked as a consulting engineer for a large multi-national company where I worked on the shop floor as well as implementing modern technology. I then joined the research world, where I have helped businesses understand innovative technologies and how they can best adopt them to improve their productivity.

Dr Matt Southgate

With an engineering background in mechanical, electronic and systems engineering.  Comfortable and experienced working on bleeding edge and contemporary technologies for strategic projects he has worked in a variety of roles with the public sector, academia, and industry.  Such roles as: R&D electronics engineer and data analyst, to embedded systems architect, university lecturer and scientific advisor.