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Making business innovation a reality

21 Nov 2016 5:15PM

A new Innovation scheme to support business growth is being launched.  Worth almost £4million, the project will deliver expert advice and grants working across much of the east of England.

The project - Innovation Bridge - offers small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) a free business review with innovation experts   and access to specialist academic advice and expertise to develop an action plan for the development of new products or services that will support future business growth.

After a successful pilot scheme in 2014, Innovation Bridge returns with the support of three of the region’s universities, including the University of Suffolk, University of Bedfordshire and Anglia Ruskin University. It is partly financed by £1.95million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

The project, led by Central Bedfordshire Council, will also work with Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) who are private public partnerships responsible for supporting economic growth, their growth hubs, which co-ordinate business support and other innovation projects.  The growth hubs are:

  • New Anglia Growth hub in New Anglia LEP
  • Velocity Growth hub in SEMLEP
  • Signpost2Grow in GCGP

Over the three-year lifespan of the project, the aims of Innovation Bridge are:

  • To give at least 12 hours of support to 350 businesses
  • 116 businesses will receive a grant of £1,000-15,000 to support innovation
  • 62 new enterprises will be started
  • 87 new jobs created
  • 45 new to market products will be introduced
  • 94 new to firm products will be designed.

Stef Thorne, Head of Research and Enterprise Services at the University of Suffolk, said “Support for innovation by the University is going from strength to strength. With the launch of the Ipswich Waterfront Innovation Centre (IWIC) last month and now this fantastic project offering, SMEs more funded support, we are well placed to see more and more impact on local growth.”

Chris Starkie, Managing Director of New Anglia LEP, said: “We are pleased to be supporting the Innovation Bridge to bring support and advice to businesses which are seeking to drive innovation.

“Through the links to the Universities, businesses will be able to access a wide range of expertise to help them develop and grow, and that can only be positive for our region.”

Cllr Nigel Young, Central Bedfordshire Council Executive Member for Regeneration and Business, said “Central Bedfordshire Council is committed to supporting business growth.  The Innovation Bridge project forms part of our business support toolkit.  After a successful pilot we are delighted to work with new partners to expand the project’s geographical reach.  We already have a wide range of resources in this area, but this project provides businesses with a fantastic chance to access a free business review, cutting edge innovation, expertise, research and academia and access to grants to support growth.”

“The Innovation Bridge project can help increase investment in high performance technologies and research and development by small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and allow them to implement the technological changes and improvements that will keep businesses in the region ahead of the curve to help increase productivity and profits.”

Businesses or individuals interested in participating in the scheme will have an initial assessment carried out either face to face or over the telephone, and a range of support will then be on offer from the Universities to help the client develop an innovation action plan.

For more information on the scheme, visit


University of Suffolk Press Office
T: 01473 338476