Every £1 put towards innovation and growth by an SME will be matched with a £1 contribution from the project. The typical Innovation Voucher is £2,500, meaning eligible businesses can unlock a total fund of £5,000 to access external expertise with knowledge base organisations (research institutes).
The EU funded initiative, managed by Aston University, Birmingham City University and University of Wolverhampton, was set up to help smaller businesses pay for new processes and systems to help bring new products to market.
Selected SMEs will also be able to access business innovation workshops by leading academics from all three universities to encourage competitiveness in the relevant marketplace and to give advice on how to manage business innovation and growth more effectively – all free of charge.
The money can be spent on developing a new product or process, an economic impact assessment or an innovation or technology audit.
Dr Nicholas Theodorakopoulos, head of work and organisational psychology group at Aston Business School and director of the Innovation Vouchers project said:"Aston has a long history of working with SMEs. Innovation Vouchers were launched to promote external knowledge sharing in business. The regional scheme will provide start up, small or medium-sized enterprises with the opportunity to collaborate with external experts to gain new knowledge to help their business innovate, develop and grow.
"After the success of 2007-2013 Innovation Voucher projects, Aston in partnership with Birmingham City University and University of Wolverhampton has received funding from the European Regional Developing Fund (ERDF) to work with SMEs in the Greater Birmingham and Solihull, Black Country and the Marches."
The workshops on offer include ‘Envisioning for Growth through Innovation’, ‘Strategy and Leadership for Innovations, and ‘Marketing and Finance for Innovation’.
The scheme will be open to SMEs until April 2019.