The Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) and the Northwest ERDF Programme have announced the launch of the latest round of Innovation Vouchers with the news that 50 additional larger Vouchers will now be available to Northwest businesses.
In October 2008, with the support and investment of the Northwest ERDF programme, the NWDA launched the £4.1 million scheme. The funding consists of £2 million ERDF and £2.1 million from the NWDA.
Today the NWDA and ERDF Programme have added 50 additional larger (£7,000) Vouchers to this latest round of the programme to help provide additional support during the current challenging economic conditions.
Innovation Vouchers are designed to encourage business owners, entrepreneurs and social enterprises to proactively engage with the Northwest knowledge base, including colleges and universities, to develop innovation and enhance business.
The Vouchers address the lack of interaction between businesses and the knowledge base by intervening to encourage SMEs, to work with the knowledge base by reducing the costs, and by brokering the contact between SMEs and the experts in our region.
Each Voucher, valued at up to £3,000 (250 available at the regular size in this round) includes the support to help ensure that many SMEs will continue to work with the knowledge base; in particular universities and further education.
The scheme aims to encourage 1,000 businesses in total to interact with the knowledge base; in particular universities and further education colleges across the Northwest over the next two years.
Steven Broomhead, Chief Executive of the NWDA said: “The Innovation Voucher scheme continues to be hugely popular. With the current challenging economic conditions we have pulled together extra funding to create an additional 50 larger Vouchers to help support larger innovatory business solutions. Engaging SMEs with the region’s reliable knowledge base to improve their competitiveness and productivity is a key focus for the Agency and we believe that partnerships formed during difficult economic times will inevitably create a stronger knowledge transfer base for future years.”
Innovation Vouchers are released in rounds – the first three rounds attracted 728 applications for 500 Vouchers. Of these 342 belonged to the three priority sectors – Food & Drink, Creative & Digital Industries and Professional & Business Services.
The next rounds will take place -
• 7 December 2009 – 4 January 2010
• 5 April 2010 – 30 April 2010
• 2 August 2010 – 27 August 2010
Alan Roff, Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Central Lancashire and member of the ERDF Programme Monitoring Committee, said: “I very much welcome this scheme which will help businesses to make use of the knowledge base of universities and other similar organisations. It should be particularly beneficial for smaller businesses as it will provide them with an excellent and easy method to gain access to university expertise in such areas as design, market development, product testing and research. In other similar Innovation Voucher schemes, more than 80% of SMEs come back to the knowledge provider for further work. It therefore provides an excellent way to provide long term benefits for Northwest businesses by making use of the research base available in our universities.”
Innovation Vouchers are part of Solutions for Business, the Government’s package of publicly funded business support designed to help companies start and grow. In May the NWDA awarded the 500th Innovation Voucher to help support and grow the Northwest economy, marking the mid-point of the programme.
Access to the Northwest scheme is available via Business Link Northwest, the primary gateway for business support in the region.