The steering board, which features over a dozen representatives drawn from manufacturing firms from across the North West, will also monitor progress of the pilot project and report on findings, which will help to inform the proposed national roll-out of the Made Smarter concept.

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.

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

Commenting on her appointment, 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.”

Made Smarter’s director, Donna Edwards, said: “Andrea was born and brought up in the North and also has extensive international experience across many key manufacturing sectors. The contribution her and the employer-led steering board we have established will make to the successful delivery of Made Smarter will be invaluable.

“I greatly look forward to working with her and other board members to drive the programme forward and boost the North West’s economy through the adoption of new technologies across our manufacturing base.”

Juergen Maier, CEO of Siemens and co-chair of the national Made Smarter Commission said: “I am delighted Andrea has agreed to become the chair of the North West steering group. She will be a fantastic addition to the wider Made Smarter network of key business leaders we have brought together, both regionally and nationally, to help develop and deliver this project.”