16 ambitious SMEs within the North East LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) area have been successful in securing funds to access university expertise and drive forward ground-breaking projects.
Collaborate is the research and development strand of GX, a two-year business innovation programme forming part of the Great Exhibition of the North. GX was developed to engage North East LEP SMEs and scaleups to unlock their innovation capacity, propensity to collaborate and ability to develop new products.
Part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and delivered by NewcastleGateshead Initiative (NGI), in partnership with Innovation SuperNetwork and Newcastle City Council, the Collaborate project has united 16 SMEs with three regional universities: Northumbria, Sunderland and Teesside.
The partnerships are each worth up to £11,000 and will encompass a minimum of 60 hours’ support over a three to six-month period.
Carol Bell, Director – Major Events and Festivals, NewcastleGateshead Initiative, said: “Innovation is key to the success of any business, as well as the landscape and society in which it operates.
“Many major businesses already collaborate with our universities, but it can seem like a daunting or unfamiliar process for smaller organisations to navigate, which is where the Collaborate fund and associated support comes into play. It enables ease of access to some of the best academic expertise, leading edge research and technology to address specific business problems through innovation, and ultimately to accelerate the growth of their businesses.
“In brokering these relationships, we anticipate that our most ambitious and innovative SMEs will one day become leaders in their field, playing a major role in the future of society.”
Collaborate includes many multi-disciplinary approaches, with projects benefiting from, for example, an overlap between tech and behavioural sciences research and expertise. This demonstrates how working with academic institutions can create opportunities for sectors to tap into a much wider knowledge base than their current networks might allow.
One SME that has been successful in securing funding through Collaborate is Medintu, a Sunderland-based digital health care organisation that is working in partnership with the University of Sunderland.
Medintu CEO, Reddy SV, said: “As a small organisation we knew we wanted to access academic expertise, but we had no idea where to start. Through the Collaborate scheme, NGI was able to understand our strengths and needs, and match us to the right university, bringing the right people to the table.
“Our project is complex and requires a multi-disciplinary approach, and NGI’s support has helped us to shape our partnership project with clear and deliverable objectives and timelines. We’re looking forward to collaborating with the University of Sunderland team.”