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New funding to connect innovative businesses in Suffolk with research power of universities

14 Jan 2019 10:00AM

Businesses are to harness the power of the latest breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, biotechnology and digital creative thanks to a new partnership.

The EIRA project – meaning Enabling Innovation: Research to Application –  was awarded £4.7m from Research England’s Connecting Capability Fund and is now open for applications from businesses looking to innovate by working with academics.

The aim of EIRA is to support the national Industrial Strategy by driving growth and increasing productivity in the East of England by transforming the way businesses connect with universities and colleges.

The EIRA network is led by the University of Essex working with the University of Suffolk as well as UEA, the University of Kent, fellow members of the Eastern Academic Research Consortium (Eastern ARC) which was established to encourage research collaboration and training.

The other EIRA network members are Harlow College, Norwich University of the Arts, and Writtle University College.

Artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and digital creative are the key focus for EIRA with the network allowing businesses to access both expertise and specialist facilities.

EIRA Director Kirstie Cochrane, based at the University of Essex, said: “Artificial intelligence is transforming all sectors of our economy, biotechnology is having an impact on everything from food production to medicine and the East of England is recognised as a centre of excellence in the digital creative sector. EIRA is aiming to support the development of businesses in the East of England which are looking to take full advantage of the opportunities offered by these fast moving sections of our economy.”

Stefanie Thorne, Head of Business Engagement and Entrepreneurship at the University of Suffolk, said “We are very pleased to be working within the EIRA project to support the connection of businesses with higher education across Suffolk and the wider region. There are huge opportunities here for businesses within the three sectors and the University of Suffolk is well placed to deliver projects that meet the needs of business and boost productivity through innovation.”

Vanessa Cuthill, Director of the University of Essex’s Research and Enterprise Office and Project Sponsor, said: “As the lead institution, we’re excited that Essex researchers will have new ways to support businesses across all three key themes. With our reputation and experience in successfully connecting research expertise with business needs this project can be really transformational for our region.”

With a range of majority-funded grants available, EIRA will help businesses of all sizes develop new products, services, and solutions. The project supports businesses operating in, or seeking solutions from, the three key areas. Support includes Innovation Vouchers to fund access to academic expertise and Research and Development Grants. More opportunities are in development, with Innovation Internships and start-up microfinance.

Partners from industry, regional membership organisations, and local enterprise partnerships strengthen EIRA’s offering. They include BT, TechEast, AgriTech East, Digital Catapult, South Essex Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP), and New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (NALEP).

Businesses and academics interested in accessing EIRA funding for innovative projects can find out more at


University of Suffolk Press Office
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