AT a time of austerity, when many small businesses are cutting back, one organisation has launched a programme designed to enable firms to stimulate growth, rather than stifling it.
Utilising £724,000 ERDF investment and part financed by the European Union’s ERDF Competitiveness Programme 2007-13, the North East Business and Innovation Centre’s (BIC) Innovation Programme provides essential mentoring and financial support to allow firms to explore their innovative potential and turn ideas into a reality.
Elizabeth Shaw, innovation manager at the North East BIC, said: “Derived from the Latin word ‘innovatus’; the noun of innovaire meaning to renew; alter or change, the ability to innovate is vital to the lifecycle of a business but the unfortunate reality is that so many businesses aren’t able to realise their innovative ambitions as they don’t have the time or funds to explore them.
“The concept of the Innovation Programme is simple; it seeks to reverse this trend by helping businesses to get over this initial hurdle, offering them much needed support and access to specialists who will not only look at the viability of the idea but also the longer term business benefits of developing it.
“This could involve broadening their product base, introducing a new service, exploring new markets, changing operating methods, developing new financial tools or making better usage of technology.”
Initially designed to support high growth businesses, the Innovation Programme is equally appropriate for any business over 12 months old which is interested in becoming more innovative.
Launched early this year, the project has attracted the attention of a cross section of businesses all with a common interest in driving their businesses forward.
Elizabeth added: “Prior to introducing the programme we spend a great deal of time recruiting a bank of innovation specialists as we knew we would attract applications from a broad section of businesses and it is of the utmost importance that clients have the choice of innovation specialists possible.
“This bank of highly competent and credible mentors are key to the programme; as having undergone a vigorous vetting process they are able to share their experiences and knowledge to help their individual clients develop their innovative plans.
“The region has a proud tradition of innovation and it would appear that we haven’t lost our appetite for it, as interest in this project has been phenomenal.
“We now have a broad range of clients working with us; actually the variety of businesses coming forward has been quite staggering ranging from engineering through to environmental businesses, with everything in-between!
“The BIC is dedicated to supporting businesses in the North East region, and has been at the forefront of innovative projects since its inception in 1994.
“This programme is an exciting addition to its existing portfolio of services and I am very much looking forward to seeing it develop. I would urge any business with innovative aspirations to contact to the innovation team.”
For more details on the Innovation Programme or to apply call 0191 516 6021 or visit www.ne-bic.co.uk/innovation