Universities combine to promote SME growth fund

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THREE West Midlands universities have joined forces to launch a new scheme offering up to £2,500 to help SMEs with their innovation and growth.

The Innovation Voucher Scheme, developed by Birmingham City University, Aston University and University of Wolverhampton, aims to help smaller businesses pay for new processes and systems that will improve efficiency and help bring new products to market. 

For every £1 a company can put towards innovation and growth, the figure will be matched with a £1 contribution from the voucher project. The typical Innovation Voucher is £2,500 which means eligible businesses can unlock a total business innovation fund of £5,000 to access external expertise with knowledge base organisations, such as research institutes. 

SME’s may choose to use the funding to go towards developing a new product or process, testing a product or service, managing supply chains and logistics, or developing a new business model. The funding may also be used, with limitations, to exploit advances in web technologies for the region and/or industry, market research, and equipment, capital items, or software purchases to develop prototypes. 

Selected SMEs will also be able to access free business innovation workshops run by leading academics from all three universities. The workshops aim to encourage competitiveness in the relevant marketplace, and give advice on how to manage business innovation and growth more effectively.  Workshops on offer include ‘Envisioning for Growth through Innovation’, ‘Strategy and Leadership for Innovation, and ‘Marketing and Finance for Innovation’. 

Mark Gilman, Professor of SME Growth & Development, at Birmingham City Business School said: “Our research highlights that innovation is a key element in growing your business. Entrepreneurs tell me all the time that they would like to move away from being ‘busy fools’ to becoming ‘strategic leaders’ in innovation.  

“The Innovation Voucher Scheme and the Workshops are a key means of kick starting this process in a very understandable and practice driven environment. We don’t tell you what to do, but rather work with you and your business to achieve growth.”  The scheme is open to SMEs until April 2019.

How to apply for Innovation Vouchers


Source: Duncan Tift - The Business Desk

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