Small and medium-sized businesses across the Yorkshire and Humber region have defied the economic downturn by embracing innovation after securing backing from the £3.1m Yorkshire Innovation Fund.
Since the Yorkshire Innovation Fund was set up in 2013 it has supported over 200 small and medium-sized enterprises in the Yorkshire and Humber region.
Part-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the Yorkshire Innovation Fund brought together ten of the region’s higher education institutions to help the region’s small and medium sized enterprises to develop ideas for new products, services or processes by funding collaborative projects with the region’s universities to boost business growth.
Among the first to benefit was Sue Overton Applied Practice, a York based early years consultancy. Managing Director Sue Overton applied to the fund for help developing a range of interactive, drama-based on-line learning tools to meet the development needs of the UK’s workforce of Early Years managers and practitioners.
Having quickly identified a need for technical expertise in learning through IT, Sue successfully applied for £41k worth of business support from the fund, which paved the way for a working partnership with Dr Mike O’Dea, a senior lecturer in computer science York St John University.
Drawing on Mike’s technical expertise of learning through IT and computer science education, Sue developed the concept of soap opera style film scenarios which provided a practical learning application for managers in nurseries and other Early Years environments. The innovative learning concepts were then tested by university’s faculty of Education and Theology.
Last year the company’s turnover rose by 150% and a further increase of 60% is forecast for 2015. Last month the company moved to larger premises at Easingwold Business Park. Three new training products (tackling recruitment, whistle-blowing and child-minding) are currently under development and Sue is exploring opportunities to provide training to practitioners in youth offending and social care.
“Thanks to the Yorkshire Innovation Fund and York St John University, we’ve been able to significantly boost the level of expertise within our business”, explains Sue
Other businesses to benefit from the fund include East Yorkshire firm Technostics, a market leader in the research and development of medical products. Cottingham-based Technostics secured £41,000 of business support. This funded expertise from the University of Hull to help widen use of Technostics signature product, Peptest, which detects the presence of aggressive stomach enzymes. The saliva-based test is used to diagnose acid reflux and spares the patient from invasive procedures such as an endoscopy.
Skipton-based Principle Healthcare were also awarded £41,000 of business support which they used to develop two new products including a formula to prevent loss of muscle mass in the elderly which is due for launch in 2016.
Director of the Yorkshire Innovation Fund, Suzanne Emmett commented,
“Our region is a major economic powerhouse and The Yorkshire Innovation Fund helped our community of dynamic SMEs to innovate by tapping into the specialist expertise of Yorkshire’s universities.”
“In a very short time the Yorkshire Innovation Fund demonstrated the significant results that can be achieved when universities and businesses work together”, she added.
Emily Wolton, Executive Director of Yorkshire Universities which represents all the higher education institutions in Yorkshire said,
“This Yorkshire Innovation Fund project was genuinely unique in that it enabled a multi-partnership approach and a bespoke response to business needs. Businesses were signposted to the most relevant higher education expertise and, in many cases, worked with more than one university. The project created an excellent platform for each university partner to showcase its expertise and for all the parties to reap the benefits of working closely together to benefit from their respective resources and specialisms.”
The Yorkshire Innovation Fund brought together ten of the region’s higher education institutions to help small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in the Yorkshire and Humber region to grow.
Part-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the fund helped small businesses to develop ideas for new products, services or processes by funding collaborative projects with the region’s universities, drawing on their expertise, specialist equipment or facilities to develop ideas which result in business growth.
The project attracted £3.06million of investment from the ERDF as part of Europe’s support for local economic development through the Yorkshire and Humber ERDF Programme 2007-13. Partner universities contributed a further £1.87m, bringing the total investment to £4.93m. The central project team are based at the University of Bradford.
The delivery partners were:
The University of Bradford, The University of Huddersfield, The University of Hull, The University of Leeds, Leeds Beckett University, Leeds College of Music, Leeds Trinity University, Sheffield Hallam University, The University of York, York St John University. The University of Sheffield is a strategic partner.
Facts about the Yorkshire Innovation Fund
£3.1m awarded to innovative businesses in the Yorkshire and Humber region
£907k allocated through Small Innovation Projects (SIPs)
£835k allocated through 32 Research & Development Projects (RDPs)
£1.3m allocated through Strategic Interventions (SI) (projects (several companies with similar needs)
250+ applications for support received
174 innovation projects funded
260+ experts involved in project delivery
10 sectors supported