Manufacturing organizations in Maryland looking to upgrade their operations and gain a competitive edge may receive a welcome boost in the next few years through the Maryland Manufacturing 4.0 (M4.0) grant program. Given the popularity of its pilot last year, the state is looking to implement a new, semi-permanent program with an established non-lapsing fund for fiscal years 2024 through 2028.
If passed, the Industry 4.0 Technology Grant and Fund (TGF) will allocate $10 million annually to manufacturers to invest in Industry 4.0 cutting-edge technologies. The objective of this program is to help businesses leverage innovative technologies to increase productivity and efficiency, improve sales, and enhance the quality of products.
Maryland Manufacturing 4.0 Grant Program Pilot Overview
In the pilot program, the Maryland Department of Commerce offered grants—ranging from a minimum of $15,000 to a maximum of $50,000 per project—to eligible small to mid-sized manufacturers. Once awarded a grant, manufacturers would have the option to use the funding for a wide range of activities related to Industry 4.0. On March 21, 2023, Maryland Governor Wes Moore announced the 23 local recipients of nearly $1 million in total grant funds to invest in Industry 4.0 projects that have been approved for funding. Among those projects included are things like obtaining an automated canning system for brewing, investing in employee training software for machinery, and deploying a robot to transport inventory.
What to Expect from the Newly Proposed Industry 4.0 Technology Grant Program and Fund
The proposed legislation by the Maryland General Assembly would be similar to the M4.0 grant but with notable grant expansions and updated eligibility requirements. Similar to the Maryland Manufacturing 4.0 grant, the TGF would award grants to small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) manufacturers in the state who invest in Industry 4.0 technologies such as:
- Advanced sensor integration
- Embedded software system applications
- Robotics and autonomous equipment that collect data
- Enterprise resource planning and data analytics software
- Cloud computing and cybersecurity solutions
- Artificial intelligence for continuous improvement of efficiency and productivity
- The infrastructure required to implement a qualifying technology
Before an SME will be able to go through the competitive application process, they will need to determine if they meet all requirements. As of right now, manufacturers must operate in Maryland, meet the still-undefined requirements of a qualifying SME Manufacturer, and have been a legal entity for a minimum of one (1) year.
Unlike the pilot program, the grants offered would range from a minimum of $25,000 to a maximum of $500,000 per project. Any SME manufacturer awarded a grant will be required to provide matching funds in an amount determined by Commerce based on a sliding scale. The larger your business, the higher the matching percentage. Additionally, within 12 months of receiving the grant, the business will need to submit a letter and proof to the Department of Commerce explaining how the Industry 4.0 technology or infrastructure was implemented.
An Opportunity for Businesses to Consider Their Technology Needs
Businesses are already assessing how they will be able to leverage the program and the projects they will be able to complete should the program pass. One such company is Mercury Plastics Inc., an innovative thermoforming, plastic fabrication, and printing services provider with operations in Baltimore, Maryland.
“The TGF would be a game-changer for small and medium Maryland manufacturers facing an increasing number of obstacles in today’s economy,” said Carl Livesay, General Manager at Mercury Plastics. “As a company that leans into technology as a catalyst for change, M4.0 would help us offset upgrades to the electronics of our capital equipment. This would help us to increase production monitoring and reduce costs, among other benefits. I strongly encourage Maryland manufacturers to consider TGF as part of their investment strategy.”
Overall, the Industry 4.0 Technology Grant Program and Fund could provide an excellent opportunity for Maryland manufacturers to leverage cutting-edge technologies, remain competitive in a globalized market, and drive business growth.
How to Start Planning for the Day Industry 4.0 Passes
Don’t wait until after the program passes; start proactively planning your future tech needs now. We recommend starting by first taking inventory of your current IT environment, biggest risks, and technology gaps. This information will help you identify the technology investments your organization needs to prioritize. From ERP software and operations automation to the Internet of Things and robotics, your team should align on the technology initiatives that will help optimize your business, improve your margins, and ensure you gain a competitive edge. Then, it’s time to start building your business case.
Not sure how to kick things off? An outsourced IT partner can help answer your questions and develop a path forward. We’d love to work on a plan with you. From assessing your present IT state to strategic IT planning to grant writing, we have the knowledge and experience to get you where you need to be to take advantage of the latest version of Industry 4.0 as soon as updates are announced.
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