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Business & Economy

Great Exhibition project unites SMEs with academia to drive innovation

A number of North East SMEs have successfully secured funds to access university expertise and drive forward ground-breaking projects.

A total of 16 companies are being supported by Collaborate – the research and development strand of GX – which is a two-year business innovation programme forming part of the Great Exhibition of the North.

GX was developed to engage SMEs and scale-ups based in the North East Local Enterprise Partnership area to unlock their innovation capacity, propensity to collaborate and ability to develop new products.

Part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and delivered by NewcastleGateshead Initiative (NGI), in partnership with Innovation SuperNetwork and Newcastle City Council, the Collaborate project has united the SMEs with the universities of Northumbria, Sunderland and Teesside.

The partnerships are each worth up to £11,000 and will encompass a minimum of 60 hours’ support over a three to six-month period.

Carol Bell, NGI director – major events and festivals, said: “Innovation is key to the success of any business, as well as the landscape and society in which it operates.

“Many major businesses already collaborate with our universities, but it can seem like a daunting or unfamiliar process for smaller organisations to navigate, which is where the Collaborate fund and associated support comes into play.

“It enables ease of access to some of the best academic expertise, leading-edge research and technology to address specific business problems through innovation, and ultimately to accelerate the growth of their businesses.

“In brokering these relationships, we anticipate that our most ambitious and innovative SMEs will one day become leaders in their field, playing a major role in the future of society.”

Medintu, a Sunderland-based digital health care organisation working in partnership with the University of Sunderland, is one of the SMEs to have been successful in securing funding through Collaborate.

Reddy SV, Medintu’s chief executive, said the scheme has made making connections to academia much more simple.

He added: “Through the Collaborate scheme, NGI was able to understand our strengths and needs, and match us to the right university, bringing the right people to the table.

“Our project is complex and requires a multi-disciplinary approach, and NGI’s support has helped us to shape our partnership project with clear and deliverable objectives and timelines.

“We’re looking forward to collaborating with the University of Sunderland team.”