Being innovative with innovation

A successful scheme that matches small Scottish businesses with world-leading university expertise has been expanded.

Set up in 2009, the Scottish Funding Council’s Innovation Voucher Scheme provides small and medium-sized businesses with up to £5,000 to work with academic experts to develop their businesses or solve problems that are holding them back. Over 800 businesses have benefitted since the scheme began.

Now, more innovations are set to build on the success of the vouchers. The scheme is to be piloted across Scotland’s 13 regional colleges for business operating in the construction sector. The scheme will also be opened up to include research institutes for the first time.

In a separate development, the existing links between small businesses and universities have opened the way for Masters and PhD students to be placed inside a growing company to accelerate the rate at which they can develop new products and services. Students also gain through the potential to make their mark in a growing company and the chance to be involved at the heart of the business from the start.

Deputy First Minister, John Swinney said:

“Innovation is one of the key enablers of growth and supporting it in all its forms is explicit in both the One Scotland Programme for Government and in the Scotland CAN DO approach. The Innovation Voucher Schemes have been instrumental in providing financial support for many projects and access to academic expertise and facilities. Scotland is internationally recognised and respected for its quality, innovation and collaboration with businesses and educational establishments. I am delighted that this programme is expanding to include Scotland’s colleges, adding value to the Scottish economy and helping to develop our areas of industrial strength.”

Laurence Howells, chief executive of the Scottish Funding Council, said:

“The Innovation Vouchers Scheme has been a huge success, linking hundreds of Scottish small businesses with universities’ expertise.

“Entrepreneurs have been able to develop their products in ways they would have struggled to do by themselves. It’s produced brilliant innovations like a small rapeseed oil company being able to sell its products in Harvey Nicholls because they could demonstrate its antioxidant levels and a folding guitar you can take on an aeroplane. I look forward to seeing the exciting developments that construction companies can make through working with colleges.”

Dr Siobhan Jordan, director of Interface, said:

“We are delighted that SFC has instigated these new developments to assist even more businesses and academic teams to collaborate. In particular we are very excited about the new scheme which will help post graduate students understand businesses and in turn embed new innovation and skills in small companies” 

For more information on funding or to apply for any of these schemes please visit www.interface-online.org.uk/how-we-can-help/funding