Scheme can make business innovation a reality

Published: 17 November 2016 at 13:40

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Anglia Ruskin University is supporting new £4million Innovation Bridge project

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A new innovation scheme to support business growth is being launched.  Worth almost £4million and working across much of the East of England, the project will deliver expert advice and grants.

The project – Innovation Bridge – offers small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) a free business review with innovation experts, and access to specialist academic advice and expertise to develop an action plan for the development of new products or services that will support future business growth.

After a successful pilot scheme in 2014, Innovation Bridge returns with the support of Anglia Ruskin University, University of Bedfordshire and University of Suffolk, and is partly financed by £1.95million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

The project, led by Central Bedfordshire Council, will also work with Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) which are public-private partnerships responsible for supporting economic growth.  This includes South East Midlands LEP (SEMLEP), Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough LEP (GCGP) and New Anglia LEP (NALEP) and their growth hubs, which co-ordinate business support and other innovation projects.  The growth hubs are:

  • Velocity Growth hub in SEMLEP
  • Signpost 2 Grow in GCGP
  • New Anglia Growth hub in NALEP

Over the three-year lifespan of the project, the aims of Innovation Bridge are:

  • to give at least 12 hours of support to 350 businesses
  • 116 businesses will receive a grant of £1,000-15,000 to support innovation
  • 62 new enterprises will be started
  • 87 new jobs will be created
  • 45 new to market products will be introduced
  • 94 new to firm products will be designed

Dr Michael Millan, Director of the Research and Innovation Development Office at Anglia Ruskin University, said: 

“Innovation Bridge is a great opportunity to demonstrate the benefits of collaboration between businesses and the expertise and support available through Higher Education institutions such as Anglia Ruskin. 

“We as a university have a great track record of success working with SMEs to support innovation through previous ERDF projects such as Low Carbon KEEP.  By again being able to offer subsidised support through programmes such as Innovation Bridge, Anglia Ruskin is well placed to deliver value and impact to the GCGP region over the next three years.”

Laura Welham-Halstead, Head of Communications & Connectivity at the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough LEP, said: 

“Connecting businesses with the vast amount of knowledge and technical expertise that resides within our local universities will undoubtedly be of great assistance to companies looking to develop and test new products and services. 

“We look forward to helping connect businesses to Innovation Bridge via our business signposting service, Signpost 2 Grow, and seeing these companies grow in the future.”

Businesses or individuals interested in participating in the scheme will have an initial assessment carried out either face to face or over the telephone, and a range of support will then be on offer from the universities to help the client develop an innovation action plan.

Cllr Nigel Young, Central Bedfordshire Council Executive Member for Regeneration and Business, said: 

“Central Bedfordshire Council is committed to supporting business growth.  The Innovation Bridge project forms part of our business support toolkit.  After a successful pilot we are delighted to work with new partners to expand the project’s geographical reach.  

“We have a wide range of resources in this area, but this project provides businesses with a fantastic chance to access a free business review, cutting edge innovation, expertise, research and academia and access to grants to support growth.

“The Innovation Bridge project can help increase investment in high performance technologies and research and development by small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and allow them to implement the technological changes and improvements that will keep businesses in the region ahead of the curve to help increase productivity and profits.”

For more information about the Innovation Bridge scheme, visit www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/innovationbridge.