Minister unveils £1.1 million Innovation boost for SMEs


Start-Up firms and Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) are set to get a £1.1 million innovation boost to help them develop new ideas, improve processes and target new markets.

 A second wave of Innovation Vouchers are being made available through the Technology Strategy Board. The extra funding is for Innovation Vouchers for businesses who want to use public Open Data to commercialise their ideas and develop products and prototypes.

 The Innovation Vouchers scheme was launched in September providing £5,000 to businesses who wanted to develop ideas applicable to Agri-food, Built Environment and Space. As well as the additional funding for Open Data use, they are also being extended for businesses with innovation ideas in the areas of Energy, Water and Waste.

 Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said:

“This new wave of Innovation Vouchers will give SMEs a great opportunity to bid for funding that can make a real difference to the growth of their business ideas. They will be able to develop exciting proposals that can make use of open data, which have the potential to unlock great value and boost economic growth. 
“There is also real strength across the UK knowledge base in the areas of Energy, Water and Waste. The expansion of Innovation Vouchers in these areas will provide an added boost for businesses looking for suppliers of knowledge who can help explore and develop their innovations.”

The Technology Strategy Board’s Chief Executive Iain Gray said:

 “We’re delighted that as well as offering our own Technology Strategy Board Innovation Vouchers we’ve been able to use our portal as a conduit to 43 other schemes run by universities and other organisations right across the country from Aberdeen to Cornwall, in Wales and Northern Ireland. This provides vital support to businesses starting their innovation journey and making contact with a knowledge supplier for the first time.
“Innovation Vouchers offer a low risk way for small businesses to explore new ideas with a wider network of specialists – ideas that can make a real difference and help them grow.”

In September, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) committed £1 million a year for the next three years for Innovation Vouchers. That will be matched by the Technology Strategy Board, meaning there will be £2 million each year for areas including Agri-food, Built Environment, Energy, Water and Waste. The Innovation Vouchers will be allocated every three months, with 100 Vouchers across the themes each quarter. An additional £1.1 million is now available for Open Data over the next two years.

People will be able to apply for the Innovation Vouchers directly through the Technology Strategy Board website.

Business can use their Innovation Vouchers to work with knowledge suppliers such as:

• Universities and further education colleges
• Research and technology organisations
• Technical consultancies
• Catapult centres
• Design advisers
• Intellectual property advisers.

 Examples of how Innovation Vouchers for Open Data business innovators and inventors could be used include:

• A small business looking to grow services and solutions using Open Data
• A new business looking to develop an idea into a working prototype
• Specialist consultancy on the integration of Open Data with other data sources to develop products and prototypes
• Intellectual Property advice in respect of ideas incorporating Open Data.

The additional funding for Open Data vouchers comes after BIS announced this week new measures to open up access to public data; including a new £7.5 million Data Strategy Board Breakthrough Fund and a new £850,000 Open Data Immersion Programme which will assist public organisations and companies to opening up new opportunities for data.

You can find out more information on the new open data investments announced earlier this week at