Innovation is one thing, but getting it to work and to pay is something else. The Innovation Programme is designed to help businesses do just that.
It is an ERDF funded programme by which the North East BIC works with SMEs in the North East that are looking at innovating, either a product or a process. The BIC partners them with innovation specialists who can help the company to bring that integration into their business and commercialise it.
The programme also pays for 40% of any support that the company needs to buy in
to make the innovation work.
The Innovation Programme uses £724,000 of ERDF investment and is part financed by the European Union’s ERDF Competitiveness Programme 2007 – 2013.
FIRM HAS ITS FINGER ON THE PULSE
A North East biometric manufacturer iEvo is launching new products and breaking into new markets, thanks to the North East SME Innovation Programme.
Founded in 2009, the company designs and manufactures biometric fingerprint scanners for the security and access control market.
Identifying a clear gap in the security industry for a product that could function in a number of different environments but remain reliable, the team created the iEvo ultimate fingerprint reader, which can scan a user’s fingerprint even while submerged in water, in temperatures as low as -20°C and with certain substances such as oil, dirt, grease and cream present on the skin.
With the iEvo ultimate reader gaining popularity in the industry, the team developed the iEvo micro which suits internal applications while retaining some of the original iEvo ultimate features. The company claims that these two products have now become the benchmark of biometric innovation in terms of technology, reliability and integration.
Shaun Oakes, managing director of iEvo, says: “Both products are now well established within the security industry and have generated quite a loyal following from security installers in the UK and overseas. We’re always listening to our customers and we felt like the next step was offering them the opportunity to customise our products to suit their project or specification.
“We were able to fund this particular research for product updates through the Innovation Programme where they gave us the support to finance the prototypes for our new technology requirements to allow for testing and development. The simplicity of working within the programme really helped us move our plans forward and having secured the funds in February 2013 we are working towards launching several new additions to help accelerate our business and enter new markets that previously would have been inaccessible to us.”
Chris Hylton, business and technical consultant for the Innovation Programme at the North East BIC, says: “It has been fantastic to work with iEvo on the programme. Their fingerprint scanners operate to military security standards and with the support of the North East SME Innovation Programme they can now offer this level of reliable robust operation to civilian, commercial, academic and public-sector applications with a large number of users without loss of security and with increased functionality covering these increasingly varied sectors.”
STAYING ON TRACK
A company specialising in renewable energy products has developed a solar device, with support from the Innovation Programme, to plug a gap in the market created by planning regulation changes.
Hadrian Electrical Engineering, a Hexham based company established in 2010 to install and service wind turbines and solar products, spotted a market opportunity for an innovative solar tracking system that would enable the company to expand its client base nationally.
The company directors had previously operated in the dairy and refrigeration services industry before diversifying in response to the changing needs of the farming community.
The idea for the small ground-mounted Solar PV Tracker, the first of its kind to be developed in the UK, was born out of changes to planning regulations which allowed tracking units of 3m sq and smaller to be installed in homes and businesses, without the need for planning permission.
Working in partnership with Ron Jamieson, a former chief executive of the Resource Centre for Innovation and Design (RCID) at Newcastle University and a specialist in product development, Hadrian Electrical Engineering approached the North East BIC’s Innovation Programme for support in accessing funds to design and develop their product idea.
Doug Martin from Hadrian Electrical Engineering, says: “We picked up on the changes in planning legislation and saw a real opportunity to develop a small solar tracking product here in the UK which could be accessible to both domestic and commercial users. With an already established network of distributors and a clear gap in the market for our product, we were confident that there would be a real opportunity for our Solar PV Tracker.”
Through the Innovation Programme Hadrian Electrical Engineering was able to win funding towards product design and prototype development using Jamieson’s expertise. The company continues to access support and guidance through the Innovation Programme as it prepares to go into production.
Martin adds: “The support we had from the Innovation Programme was really helpful. We were able to access valuable funds through the scheme that enabled us to kickstart our product development plans and to capitalise on the market opportunity which I believe has huge potential.”
As a result of the success of this project a new company - Tracksun - was formed by Martin and Malcolm Archer of Hadrian Electrical Engineering and Jamieson specialising in solar tracker sales and development. Tracksun is now operating from the same site as Hadrian Electrical Engineering.
The BIC’s Chris Hylton says: “Hadrian Electrical Engineering is a perfect example of how a business can unlock its potential by embracing innovation. The company did this successfully the first time around when it diversified from its agricultural services operation and moved into the renewables sector, and we’re delighted that with the support of the Innovation Programme, the company has been able to build on this success by bringing to market their unique solar tracking product, fully developed here in North East England.
“I hope even more businesses tap into the support available through the Innovation Programme to help them to do something new, different or operate more smartly; making a positive difference that could ultimately result in the business being more competitive or even experiencing a growth in profits.”