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INDEX scheme expanded

A project lead by Aston University, which provides SMEs with funding to purchase academic support from universities, has been expanded.

The Innovation Voucher Project has already provided 464 companies in the region with £3000 towards collaborative work with universities.  Additional funding released this month, will assist a further 197 companies with £3000 funding vouchers. Vouchers can be spent on the support of a specialist from one of 13 universities in the West Midlands on projects which improve efficiency and effectiveness of business.

Funding for the project is provided by Advantage West Midlands and The European Regional Development Fund, with additional support from the West Midlands Centre for Constructing Excellence. Applications for the 110 of the additional 197 vouchers closes on 18 October – 30 are targeted at the environmental sector and 12 at the construction sector. Additional priority sectors include health and medical technologies, new materials, digital media and transport.

Andrew Wilson, Innovation Voucher Project Manager, ABS said: 'This is a fantastic opportunity for small businesses to collaborate with the academic world, for both parties to share knowledge and to boost innovation in the West Midlands region.

'Innovation is not just about technology, but also the management of the innovation process. It is about doing things differently to improve effectiveness and efficiency.'

Previous projects have included innovation and technology audits, business model development, product development, training in innovation management and efficiency audits.

To secure a voucher, companies must employ 250 employees or less and have an annual turnover of less than 50 million Euros. Applications can be made online at www.innovationvouchers.org.

Words by Laura Plotnek 

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