Hefty government grants are helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) translate brilliant ideas into business success. 

 

The Innovation for Growth (I4G) programme is a highly targeted way for government to inject much-needed funds into promising projects at research and development (R&D) stage – creating and securing high value jobs for the future.

Responsible for managing I4G in the South-west is the University of the West of England, Bristol (UWE Bristol). In its first year administering the fund, they converted some £3.3 million of investment into over 430 jobs. That success has now led on to a further year’s funding.

The I4G scheme part-funds R&D projects with grants of between £25,000 and £150,000 - covering up to 35 per cent of total project costs - and is aimed at SMEs. The grants that UWE Bristol made in the first round of applications during 2014 went to businesses in a host of industries, including ICT, apps and games, environmental and engineering.

It’s a highly robust application process, with independent business experts making the judgement calls on which projects offer most long-term potential. A total of 40 businesses received I4G grants in 2014, whittled down from an original application pool of 115, and between them the grants have since safeguarded 249 existing jobs and led to 183 new positions being created.

“Those numbers are really impressive,” says Professor Martin Boddy, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Business Engagement at UWE Bristol, “because our aim is to maximise the return on investment of public sector resources. That number of high-value jobs represents excellent value for money.”

Technologies supported in the first year included recycling plastics into fuel and generating virtual training programmes for pilots.

Bristol-based games developer Opposable Games received an I4G grant in 2014. Ben Trewhella, Opposable Games' MD, said: “Our I4G grant enabled us to take on four new staff to help deliver a specific project, and to protect the jobs of five colleagues.

“It’s really exciting to be now launching the game demo, and preparing to take the full version into the marketplace.”

The very fact that a company has been awarded a grant boosts their chances of receiving further investment, multiplying the original funding many times over, as well as being taken more seriously by potential collaborators and distributors.

Matthew Lloyd, MD at lighting manufacturer Global Design Solutions, another I4G grant recipient, said: “The impact has been fantastic. We’ve increased our staff by 30 per cent and have become much more commercially attractive. We now have companies asking to partner with us – from the UK and the US.”

The success of the scheme in 2014 led to £3.8 million being allocated in 2015, and the final selection process is currently underway.

“The new fund,” concludes Martin Boddy, “means new products, new services and hundreds of jobs for the South-west. Critically for UWE, it puts us right at the heart of innovation in the regional economy.”

 

This content was written and controlled by the University of the West of England

 

 

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