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Project helping to make business innovation a reality

16 November 2016

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

The project – Innovation Bridge – offers small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) a free business review with innovation experts, 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 the University of Bedfordshire, Anglia Ruskin University and the 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) who are private public partnerships responsible for supporting economic growth – this includes South East Midlands LEP (SEMLEP), Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough LEP (GCGP) and New Anglia LEP (NALEP) – their growth hubs – which co-ordinate business support – and other innovation projects.  The growth hubs are:

  • Velocity Growth hub in SEMLEP
  • Signpost2Grow 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 created
  • 45 new to market products will be introduced
  • 94 new to firm products will be designed.

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), allowing 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.”

Nick Lancaster, Director of Innovation and Enterprise at University of Bedfordshire, said: “The Innovation Bridge project is an ideal way for companies to benefit directly from our world-class research expertise; whether it is to start a new business, create a new product, process or service or indeed, to become more productive or access new markets. Universities like ours want to help you boost the levels of innovation in companies, creating wealth and jobs, spreading new knowledge and supporting new opportunities for transforming our region's SMEs.”

Stephen Catchpole, Chief Executive of SEMLEP, said: “We are delighted to be supporting the exceptional work of the Innovation Bridge project, which is giving local businesses the opportunity to kick-start their growth.

“By championing innovation and working closely with the outstanding expertise at our disposal we can propel businesses to the next level and boost the regional economy, creating new jobs in exciting, ground-breaking industries.”

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.

For more information on the scheme, visit www.centralbedfordshire.gov.uk/innovationbridge.

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