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Rallying call for local firms to access £5,000 innovation voucher scheme

The North East LEP’s new heavyweight board driving business innovation has called on local companies to seize the opportunity to get Government-backed financial help to fund new growth ideas.

The local enterprise partnership’s North East Innovation Board is leading the drive to encourage firms to apply for a £5,000 innovation voucher scheme towards expert innovation advice.

Successful micro businesses and SMEs will be able to claim up to £5,000 towards the cost of advice from experts at universities, further education colleges and research and technology organisations.

The vouchers can be used by businesses across all sectors to gain access to independent and expert advice on developing ideas and bringing new products to market, making the most of intellectual property or learning more about how to use design in business.

The £5,000 voucher scheme is being offered by InnovateUK, formerly the Technology Strategy Board.

Supporting more businesses to grow through innovation is a priority of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and a key theme of its North East Strategic Economic Plan.

Professor Roy Sandbach, Chair of the North East Innovation Board, said: “While big flagship innovation hub projects, like those announced for Newcastle University and CPI last week, are important, we really want to find creative ways to support smaller innovation-centric businesses as they grow and deliver more and better jobs.

“Through this voucher scheme, small and medium-sized businesses can focus their innovation work and add momentum to their growth plans.”

Around 100 vouchers will be awarded nationally every three months, with the next round being allocated in January 2015. To find out if your business is eligible and to apply for the vouchers please visit vouchers.innovateuk.org.

Businesses with any further questions can contact the North East LEP on Tel: 0191 222 3180 or email: [email protected]

A representative from InnovateUK sits on the new innovation board created by the North East LEP to support it in propelling innovation, economic growth and investment.

Chaired by Professor Sandbach, the private sector is represented on the board by Dr Alan Lowdon, Neil Hemming and Dr Peter Simpson, all of whom have established international reputations for innovative work in their fields.

They are joined by senior university figures Professor Peter Fidler of Sunderland University, Professor Nick Wright of Newcastle University, Dr Tim Hammond from Durham University and Professor George Marston, of Northumbria University. Government agencies are represented not only by InnovateUK but also Research Councils UK.

Two North East LEP board members from the business community – Gillian Hall, former senior partner of law firm Watson and Burton and Arnab Basu, chief executive of Kromek – have also joined the innovation board.

North Tyneside Mayor Norma Redfearn and South Tyneside Council Leader Iain Malcolm represent the North East Combined Authority.