Businesses across the South West are set to cash in on a new £4 million funding programme, run by the University of the West of England, Bristol.
Available to both small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and large companies, the Innovation 4 Growth scheme will part fund research and development projects with grants of between £25,000 and £150,000.
Financed by the UK government’s Regional Development Fund, it will help businesses develop new or improved products, technologies, processes or services – safeguarding existing, or creating additional, jobs as a result.
Speaking at the launch of the initiative on the University’s Frenchay Campus, Professor Martin Boddy (Pro-Vice Chancellor, Research and Business Engagement) said: “We are delighted to offer support to promising enterprises across the South West. Not only in the Bristol area, but right across the region – from Truro to Tewkesbury, Bideford to Bournemouth – the fund will enable us to help businesses innovate and grow.
“Any company with plans for research and development, or thinking about an innovative project, should consider applying. We would typically fund 35% of project costs for SMEs, and a bit less for larger companies – so a significant portion of expenditure can be claimed.”
Professor Boddy also set the scheme in the context of UWE Bristol’s wider strategy to support the business sector. “We are very proud of our long-standing reputation for collaborating with partners across many different sectors,” he said.
“We have been particularly successful at supporting innovation through our world-leading research and academic expertise.
“We are the largest supplier of skilled graduates in the region and run an award winning in-house service to help businesses find the skills they need. We have also led EU-funded innovation networks (the South West iNets) which have already assisted hundreds of the region’s research and technology focused SMEs and were highlighted in Lord Witty’s recent report for government.
“The new £4 million Innovation 4 Growth scheme builds on this experience and is further evidence of the commitment to enhancing prosperity and promoting economic growth stated in our 2020 strategy.”
Professor Janice Kiely (Director of the Institute of Bio-sensing Technology) who leads the project, explained the timescales involved. “The application deadline is Monday, 10 March 2014,” she said. “So it is important that businesses express an interest as early as possible.
“Having said that, our dedicated advisors are more than happy to provide assistance with both the short application form and the overall process, making things much easier for those considering a submission.
“Businesses should complete the brief online registration of interest form in the first instance. An advisor will then contact them within three working days to discuss the potential application and to organise further telephone or face-to-face support, if required.”
Applications will be evaluated by a panel of business experts. There may be a further call after the 10 March deadline, but this will be dependent on the availability of funds after the initial submission.
Timescales in relation to claiming grants are also short, with all funding having to be issued by the end of the 2014/15 financial year (30 April 2015). Eligible costs, however, are broad, and include project staff salaries and expenditure on materials, capital equipment, tooling, training and market assessment.
In closing the launch event, Tracey John, Head of UWE Bristol’s Research and Business Development Team, reiterated Professor Boddy’s words about the programme’s regional scope.
“It is fantastic that this scheme will enable us to support businesses across Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Somerset, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall, as well as the Bristol city-region,” she said.
“We take on large numbers of students from, and have a strong commitment to building networks and promoting growth across, all these counties, so are really pleased to have been entrusted with funds that will safeguard and create employment across the whole of the south west.”
Further details of the scheme and the registration of interest form can be found at: www.innovation4growth.co.uk