SMEs in the East can benefit from 'brain gain'

Published: 21 June 2013 at 16:01

Businesses can call on academic expertise thanks to Anglia Ruskin-run programme

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) across the East of England will be able to access academic expertise thanks to the Low Carbon KEEP programme.

The programme, which is backed by the European Regional Development Fund and managed by Anglia Ruskin University, has introduced the Innovation Voucher Scheme to help SMEs increase profitability, reduce resource consumption and develop new products or services.

Innovation Vouchers cover 40% of the costs of purchasing between £1,000 and £5,000 of specialist support, providing up to 12 days of bespoke academic assistance.  The scheme is particularly cost-effective way for businesses because the vouchers are used towards the academics’ hourly rate, rather than a set consultancy fee.

SMEs who apply for an Innovation Voucher can also access the Low Carbon KEEP Capital Grant Scheme which allows businesses to recoup 40% of the cost of purchasing capital items, such as essential equipment or software.  All materials purchased using the scheme will remain in the ownership of the SME.

The Low Carbon KEEP programme has already approved more than 50 projects and allocated over £1.1 million of funding to SMEs.  One company to have benefited so far is Incinerator Replacement Technology Ltd, based in Ipswich.

The company, which provides cleaner alternatives to traditional incineration, used Low Carbon KEEP funding to investigate and develop a new fertiliser product that increases crop yields by 20%, requires 50% less irrigation and reduces CO2 emissions.

Michael Morris-Watson, Technical Director at Incinerator Replacement Technology Ltd, said:

“Low Carbon KEEP has allowed us to access the expertise of highly qualified academics and prove the benefits of our cross-linked animal by-product protein superabsorbent polymer.  This has led to our engagement in joint trials with a large agro chemical company and has led to a further round of funding.”

Sustainability East, a Cambridge based not-for-profit social enterprise focusing on climate change, used Low Carbon KEEP funding to work with academics at Anglia Ruskin University`s Global Sustainability Institute and develop a stakeholder network for adaptation to climate change.

David Webb, Executive Director of Sustainability East, said:

“Sustainability East has experienced substantial benefits from the collaboration with the academics at Anglia Ruskin’s Global Sustainability Institute.  Working together we have increased our ability to challenge and develop responses to the complex issues at hand.”

For information about the Low Carbon KEEP programme, please phone 0845 196 4310, visit or email