Designed to unlock the innovative potential of local SMEs, the North East BIC’s SME Innovation Programme, funded through ERDF, enables businesses from across the region to think differently – using innovation as a powerful tool to gain competitive advantage and accelerate growth.
The Programme supports a wide range of the region’s key sectors, including: manufacturing, digital industries, renewable energy and healthcare; by helping SMEs to develop and launch new products, services or processes.
Paul McEldon, chief executive of the North East BIC, says: “Innovation is embedded within the history of the UK. Our strong economy is a result of our persistence to strive towards innovation, creating products for the global market.
“We believe that in order to ensure the growth of the North East economy, there is a need to foster innovative entrepreneurship, since innovation is the force that creates the jobs of tomorrow. However, when embarking on a new and innovative project, it can be a lonely environment for a business, with no one to share their successes or lessons in failure with.
“Our Innovation Programme inspires and supports North East entrepreneurs to invest in innovation and provides opportunities for SMEs to develop and exploit new ideas, products and markets.
“It is our hope that programmes such as ours will help to promote the North East as a leader in innovation and inspire more SMEs to get creative and challenge themselves.”
Innovating for success
The generation and successful exploitation of new ideas is a crucial part of refining business processes and augmenting performance whilst increasing efficiency and improving profitability.
Our growing community of innovators continue to fuel changing perceptions of the potential of our forward-thinking region.
Gillian Middleton, innovation project manager, says: “In the last four years, the programme has supported a total of 72 projects, and counting, and 14 Durham Flexible Programme projects across a wide range of industries.
“The small businesses we engage with are so diverse. From DNA based technology and smartphone AI integration, to developers of healthy alternatives to chocolate milk.”
Through the support of the Innovation Programme, North East SMEs have also created 27 new jobs in the region.
Gillian adds: “It really is a pleasure to be part of the Innovation Programme team. I’ve had the opportunity to meet some extraordinary people and businesses over the years with some really exciting and innovative ideas.
“The hard work and dedication of the team was rewarded as we achieved our targets six months early and had to apply for additional funds to bridge the gap until we could apply for the new grant funding.
“Over the next three years, we aim to continue this success and will strive to support businesses to grow through innovation with over £800,000 of ERDF funding. We look forward to building some exciting new partnerships; helping to put the North East on the map as leaders of innovation.”
How we add value to your business
Giving businesses the confidence and capabilities to excel right here in the region is a vital part of our aim to attract and retain an immense pool of talent armed with the tools they need to innovate and succeed.
The Innovation Programme is available to North East based SMEs that have traded for 12 months or more and offers:
• Up to 40% funding for innovative projects
• Project value from £5,000 to £40,000
• Signposting to other sources of innovative support
Dr Craig Rose, managing director at Seaweed & Co., initially engaged with the programme to enable his concept of processing seaweed to produce a unique and quality product for the global food industry.
Seaweed & Co. developed the technologies around the processing and milling of PureSea® seaweed to a powder that can be scaled into thousands of tonnes, which in turn can be used in a diverse range of products from nutritional supplements, to snacks, meats, sauces, soups and more.
The range has distribution globally, and is supplying into some of the largest food companies in the world.
He said: “The experience with the Innovation Programme has been overwhelmingly positive. Our innovation advisor was extremely helpful, encouraging and engaging throughout. Even after the project, they continued to ensure we had what we needed and to check in on any further support or general advice they could offer.
“It is well worth having an initial call and understanding what the Innovation Programme could do for your business.”
Glythera Ltd is also a beneficiary of the project, an Antibody Drug Conjugate (ADC) development company, which works to treat cancer through direct targeting of tumours.
They have established a technique to essentially bolt toxins to antibodies, and deliver these conjugates directly into affected cells. Glythera is working alongside industry leaders including Cancer Research UK to help patients with difficult to treat cancers.
Dr Dave Simpson, chief executive officer at Glythera, said: “Antibody Drug Conjugates are created by connecting highly potent toxins to antibodies, but currently only small amounts of the active drug will reach the tumour cells due to the instability of these molecules.
“The funding provided by the Innovation Programme has allowed us to carry out extensive research into the way we connect the toxin to the antibody, and we have already seen success – with our ADCs proving to be more active and better tolerated.
“We are already uniquely positioned in the global drug development arena and through our research endeavours, supported by the BIC we continue to strengthen our patents and remain at the forefront in ADCs.”
The North East Business and Innovation Centre (BIC) has received £820,439 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund for the SME Innovation Programme as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.