Innovation vouchers up for grabs


A pioneering scheme that encourages companies to work with universities to incorporate new technologies and services into their businesses has returned with £240,000 in new funding.

The INDEX (INnovation Delivers EXpansion) scheme, backed by Advantage West Midlands and administered by Aston Business School will provide 80 businesses with £3000 worth of input from any of the 13 universities in the midlands. The scheme was piloted in this region last year and news that the project would be rolled out nationwide was revealed in the new Science & Innovation White Paper, entitled “Innovation Nation”, and published by the Government last month.

“Innovation Nation” argues that innovation is essential to the UK’s future prosperity and the ability to tackle major challenges like climate change.

Dr Richard Hutchins, Corporate Director for Economic Development at AWM, said: “The beauty of this scheme is that companies in the West Midlands can tap into the expertise of any of the region’s universities at minimum cost and risk – and then expect to see real improvements in their performance.

“Innovation is crucial to some of the biggest challenges we face, such as global warming and sustainable development. This scheme is successfully building on these challenges to forge links between universities and SMEs and establish a demand led approach to the business community’s approach to innovation.”

John Bailey, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Business Partnerships & Knowledge Transfer) at Aston University, said: “INDEX has really captured the imagination of SMEs in the West Midlands region. We have received a really significant number of applications for innovation vouchers including many from companies who may not otherwise have engaged with universities.”

SMEs, with up to 250 employees, can apply for a voucher online. They are expected to supply contact details, an outline of the innovation they are interested in and the type of academic expertise required.

The project’s other funders are Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Employable Graduates; Exploitable Research