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Increasing impact for innovative SMEs across Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire

Launched and funded by Innovate UK and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the pilot programme set out to help small businesses to achieve their innovation ambitions. Designed to enhance innovation management capacity and provide long-term benefit to SMEs and the local economy, the programme was delivered across 13 Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) areas to support Innovate UK’s agenda to de-risk, enable and support innovation among UK businesses.

The report focused on the two regions delivered by Exemplas, Hertfordshire and Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough (GCGP), and has shown that through the pilot, I2S supported local businesses to contribute £18.1m to the economy, generate a return on investment of £9.80 for every £1.00 invested in the project and create a total of 623 jobs.

Since delivery of the pilot project began in April 2016, over 320 businesses have scaled and grown through innovation and each business benefitted from up to seven days of bespoke support from an experienced innovation adviser.  59% have already successfully commercialised their product or service thanks to the support, with 57% having achieved an increase in efficiency.

The report highlighted that many small businesses don’t know where to start when it comes to achieving their innovative goals.  88% of businesses felt the programme helped them to overcome barriers to innovation, these include lack of organisational prioritisation, ideas not being developed enough, technical constraints and lack of knowledge of markets. Overall, 75% of businesses cited an improvement in their approach to innovation following the support of I2S.

Carole Barlow, Director of Tech4T, talks about the value the programme has brought to the business:

“We felt we had a strong product but could do with some validation and help in exploiting it better. I2S has had quite an impact; it made us look at the value in our system and services. As well as helping us in our marketing, it has helped us see where there were gaps in our product and it’s now stronger as a result”.

The innovation support provided through I2S has already created a positive impact in the local economy.  75% of SMEs have or will invest time and resource into innovation strategy, with over half having already created new jobs.  It appears that more SMEs are maximising their networks, as 56% of participants confirmed they will collaborate more with others on innovation, which will provide more opportunities within the local economy.

Graham Coultas, Innovation and Programmes Director at Exemplas, comments on the success of the pilot programme and what this means for the local economy:

“These are a tremendous set of results which clearly demonstrate the positive impact that can be generated when there is a link between innovative and ambitious small businesses and high quality business support.  Innovation is key to UK economy but risky for SMEs.  The Innovate 2 Succeed programme has helped over 300 businesses manage those risks, by improving their innovation management processes and commercialising new products successfully”.

Due to the success of the pilot programme, I2S is now delivered as one of the core Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) services, to enable the continued support of high growth SMEs across the UK.  Exemplas delivers Enterprise Europe Network in the East of England, therefore opening up the I2S programme to SMEs across the wider East of England region.  The ongoing delivery of I2S realises the objectives of the Innovate UK Delivery Plan, to create an enabling environment for innovation and to connect and help SMEs find new markets for their products and services in order for them to grow and scale.

It is positive to see the impacts the pilot programme has had so far and how the ongoing delivery of the programme, as part of the EEN offering, will continue to increase impact for innovative SMEs.