North East SME’s invited to unlock innovation through GX programme

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Applications are sought from ambitious SMEs within the North East LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) area that would benefit from resource and research to drive innovation.

GX is a two-year business innovation programme forming part of the Great Exhibition of the North and its 2019 activity comprises two key strands: a grant funding scheme and Collaborate – a research and development scheme.

Part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and delivered by NewcastleGateshead Initiative (NGI), in partnership with Innovation SuperNetwork, the GX programme will run until October 2019.

The grant scheme is now open for its second wave of funding that will support SMEs looking to develop new products or services. Grants of up to £5,000 are available in this strand.
Meanwhile, Collaborate will broker research partnerships worth up to £11,000 between SMEs and research institutions to work together on innovation projects.
GX was developed to engage North East LEP SMEs and scaleups to unlock their innovation capacity, propensity to collaborate and ability to develop new products.

Carol Bell, Director – Major Events and Festivals, NewcastleGateshead Initiative, said:

“Innovation is key to the success of any business, as well as the landscape and society in which it operates.
“However, it can be difficult to balance the resource required for current operations with future innovation. This is why GX aims to create opportunities for SMEs to unlock this potential and make innovation a reality.
“During round one of the grants scheme, we made a total of 13 grants across a range of sectors including the creative, digital, software and tech sectors. We are now keen to see more applications for grants, as well as collaborative research and development partnerships.”

One of the successful applicants from round one was Fair Custodian, a small enterprise located in Proto, Gateshead, that is developing a new platform to enable users to understand, manage and take control of the personal data they share online with third parties.

Fair Custodian Co-founder, Jake Cowton, said:

“We were really pleased to be awarded a GX grant at the end of 2018 as it has enabled us to bring Fair Custodian to the general public.
“We care about personal data and believe that everyone has a right to control their own data. And with the introduction of GDPR last year, the GX grant has been incredibly timely, enabling us to further develop our work in this area.”

To be eligible for both schemes, businesses must be a registered company and employ no more than 250 staff, with an annual turnover of less than £44m.

Carol added:

“To be successful, applicants should have a strong understanding of the problem or need and an outline approach of how to solve it. For the second wave of the grants scheme, we are particularly keen to hear from SMEs within the Sunderland, South Tyneside, Durham and Northumberland areas, however, the scheme is open to all eligible businesses in the North East LEP area.”

The schemes focus on supporting companies operating in one of the regional smart specialisation sectors and areas of opportunities: Passenger vehicle manufacture; subsea and offshore energy, life sciences and health; creative, digital, software and technology-based services, health innovation, business information modelling and immersive technologies.

The closing date for GX expressions of interests for both schemes is 15 February. It is recommended that all grant-funded projects are limited to a three-month delivery period and that Collaborate projects are limited to six months.

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