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Midland businesses get a second round of innovation funding

Advantage West Midlands have awarded further funding to Aston University for organisation of a second round of 100 vouchers to be distributed to SMEs in early 2008, through the successful INDEX project (INnovation Delivers Expansion).

The scheme, which last year allocated £120,000 worth of vouchers to 40 local SMEs to buy-in academic support for innovation, offered any Midlands-based business with up to 250 employees another chance to apply for a voucher worth £3000 between January 2nd and January 22nd 2008.

John Bailey, Pro-Vice Chancellor of Knowledge Transfer at the University said: "I'm delighted that we have been able to obtain funding from Advantage West Midlands for this second round of 100 vouchers and that many more businesses will benefit.

The first round of INDEX proved a huge success, with the vouchers distributed to a wide variety of businesses from the region; all of whom discovering the advantages that external thought and application can bring. Many of the SMEs who were awarded vouchers are still working with academics, developing their innovative projects. One business that has completed the programme has been able to quantify that a planned five-year, £1m project has already had up to a year lopped off its development time.”

Dr Judy Scully of Aston Business School, Project Manager of the collaboration between the 13 Higher Education establishments in the Midlands region, said: ‘We set out to develop relationships between small medium enterprises and universities, to demonstrate that businesses can really benefit by choosing academic expertise form any of the universities in the West Midlands.’

Coventry based GPS Vision who works with clients to increase return on investment from training and people development activities were allocated one of the first INDEX vouchers, using it to produce a feasibility study and to develop system requirements for bespoke software that will assist in an online evaluation package.

Patrick Taggart a director of GPS Vision said: ‘Without the INDEX programme, we probably wouldn’t have thought about approaching a university for input, and would have gone straight to commercial software developers. The work we have done with our voucher has allowed us define our requirements so precisely that we are able to put the project directly out to tender. This has cut development time drastically with benefits far beyond the £3,000 face value of the voucher. It has also had the added benefit of developing a relationship that we hope will continue into the future.’

More vouchers will be available to SMEs in April 2008 in the third round of INDEX voucher allocation - information and applications are all online at www.indexvouchers.org. The application form just requires contact details and an outline of the project that requires innovation.

Assistance is also available from the INDEX helpline on 0121 204 3883 or e-mail enquiries@indexvouchers.

Vouchers are awarded on a lottery basis in the interests of fairness.

ENDS

For further press information please call Paul Burkwood on 0121 204 4258.

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