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Hundreds of local businesses boosted by Aston innovation scheme

Professor Nicholas Theodorakopoulos

Hundreds of small to medium-sized companies (SMEs) in the West Midlands have benefitted from a scheme, managed by Aston Business School in Birmingham, which has encouraged them to innovate and grow through the use of vouchers.

The ‘Innovation Vouchers’ project, which was run over a three-year period in partnership with Birmingham City University, has seen 190 coupons worth up to £2,500 of part-funding handed out to SMEs based in areas covered by local enterprise partnerships in Greater Birmingham and Solihull, the Black Country and the Marches.

The funding, provided by the European Regional Development Fund (EDRF), targeted eligible companies in SMART specialisation sectors to help them develop processes which improve their ability to bring new products and services to market more efficiently.

The scheme also offered participating SMEs the chance to attend ‘Innovation Workshops’, which helped them consider their own funding strategies and how best to pursue commercial finance.

Professor Nick Theodorakopoulos, Innovation Vouchers Project Director at Aston Business School, said: “I am delighted to see the project having such a deep impact on local SME’s. Their capacity to innovate and to create wealth and jobs within the region has been enhanced as a result of this project.”

One of the businesses which has benefitted from the Innovation Vouchers project is The Malted Waffle Company in Tamworth, which has been manufacturing waffle making machines since its establishment in 1986.

George Barrett, the Managing Director, said: ‘The Innovation Vouchers project was a new journey of discovery and enlightenment for the Malted Waffle company that reaped many more rewards then the efforts required to fulfil its demands’.

Another of the businesses to have benefitted from the Innovation Vouchers project is Zen communications, based in Shropshire, it specialises in strategic public relations and copyright professionals.

Felicity Wingrove, Managing Director of Zen Communications, said: “I would absolutely recommend the Innovation Vouchers scheme, the whole team at Aston University were incredibly helpful, they streamlined the process and they worked with us to make improvements that will help our business grow.”