Successful business owners know that they need to innovate to stay ahead. This can involve developing a new product, improving a process or upgrading something you have been doing for a long time. It can be a major challenge for SMEs to fund these projects. Recognising that the cost of innovation can be a barrier to businesses, Acceleration Through Innovation (ATI) has established the Innovation Fund. This £500,000 of match-funded finance is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and can support eligible Cornish SMEs to develop innovative projects with grants of between £2,500 and £25,000.
ATI Business Innovation Advisor Catherine Parnall explains, “The Innovation Fund is giving Cornish businesses a unique advantage by de-risking their innovation ideas. The grants can be used to support product development or process innovation – in other words, doing things differently and smarter. Working with start-ups through to well-established larger businesses, we are equipped to assist projects from just an idea right through to market launch, all the while recognising the need for sustainable and scalable innovation.”
Health technology company Ultramed is benefiting from the Innovation Fund. Based at Tremough Innovation Centre, the business has developed cloud-hosted, online pre-operative and pre-procedure assessment programs for hospitals. After securing a £23,000 Innovation Fund grant in January, Ultramed has developed the software so it can be integrated into multiple healthcare systems, across the NHS, private hospitals and internationally, along with having a bespoke content management system built for future development work.
Ultramed Operations Manager Elise Worrall says, “The new developments will mean hospitals can easily integrate our systems into theirs and we can add or remove content at the click of a button. It is a business critical development for Ultramed. It’s exactly what our customers were asking for and will give us a strong competitive advantage.
“As a new business, we’ve secured a range of funding, including a successful Crowdcube campaign to cover our operational costs. The Innovation Fund came at the right time for us and fitted perfectly with what we needed to achieve to move forward with the development of the programs.
“We are now placed much more competitively in the market and are further ahead than any of our known competitors, with a lot of interest across the UK and internationally.”
An important feature of the Innovation Fund is that it can give businesses like Ultramed a quick turnaround time, from applying to securing funding. While many grant programmes can take several months for a decision, securing a grant through the Innovation Fund can take as little as six weeks.
Catherine Parnall says, “We know that businesses often need to act quickly, so our timescales really help with that. We work closely with the business to ensure their strongest ideas are brought forward, before handholding them through the application process.”
Over the coming months, the Innovation Fund aims to support a number of ambitious innovation projects across Cornwall. Catherine Parnall adds, “We are encouraging businesses to do something they might not have done otherwise, including coming forward with projects they may have considered too risky to see through.”
Acceleration Through Innovation (ATI) is a three year £3 million ERDF project which aims to support business innovation across Cornwall and Isles of Scilly. Led by the University of Plymouth in partnership with Cornwall Innovation, the project drives a culture of innovation, supporting businesses who are looking to adopt innovative processes or who have aspirations to bring a new product or service to the market.