University Enterprise Zone Spotlight: Robotics Innovation Facility

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The Robotics Innovation Facility (RIFBristol) is one of five areas that make up UWE Bristol’s University Enterprise Zone. The below spotlight explains its purpose:

Located beside the UEZ café, which forms a central meeting place for the building’s companies, entrepreneurs and academics, is one of the most exciting parts of the University. Identifiable by the array of industrial robot arms and other cutting-edge hardware, visible through its window onto the café – the Robotics Innovation Facility (RIFBristol) is a high tech, inspiring and truly creative space. 

As UWE Bristol’s specialist industry-facing unit within the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) – a collaborative partnership between the city-region’s two universities and the UK’s most comprehensive academic centre for multi-disciplinary robotics research – RIFBristol provides training, research and consultancy services to a range of private and public sector clients.

Recognised as a Digital Innovation Hub by the European Union, it has been successfully delivering robotics workshops, prototyping and validating new products, demonstrating how automation can improve manufacturing processes, and supervising student-industry collaborations, since 2013.

“Our engineers help clients to trial various technical solutions, identifying the best options for their requirements,” says Farid Dailami, Director of RIFBristol and Associate Professor for Knowledge Exchange in Manufacturing.

“They can advise on capital purchases, support the deployment and integration of hardware, undertake research and proof-of-concept work, and deliver training.”

One of the unique strengths of RIFBristol is what it describes as its ‘brand agnostic’ approach. As part of BRL and UWE Bristol, it is not tied to a particular hardware manufacturer or supplier. It is, therefore, under no pressure to favour a particular brand or model and its advice is always honest, unbiased and wholly tailored to its customers’ needs.

This also means that its dedicated workspace in the UEZ is equipped with an impressive range of manufacturing equipment. ABB, KUKA and Universal robot arms sit alongside conveyers, sensors, cameras and laser measuring systems, all of which can be used to address clients’ research, CPD and product development challenges.  

“Our expertise is as diverse as our hardware”, says Dailami. “Our staff have knowledge of industrial robotics, cobotics, mechanical and electronics engineering, mechatronics, smart manufacturing, 3D printing and simulation. This diversity is our strength. We can help with robotics, but we can also bring knowledge and experience of related disciplines into play”

Alongside its private consultancy projects, RIFBristol leads several publicly funded research and business support programmes. The EU-funded TERRINet initiative, for example, enables researchers at all levels, from undergraduates, to PhD candidates and industry-based professionals, to access robotics infrastructure located across Europe. 

Since 2018, RIFBristol has also delivered the ERDF-funded SABRE Programme. This £1m project has enabled small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) from across the West of England to explore the benefits of robotics and automation.

From start-ups, micro-enterprises and sole traders, to larger and more established companies, its free and subsidised services have helped businesses to get the most from these important technologies.

“RIFBristol and the SABRE Programme played a vital role in the completion of our initial prototype. It enabled the company to undertake pilot studies with leading OEMs – and to safeguard the development of this exciting technology in the UK, securing 3 existing, and creating 4 new, jobs in the West of England.”

Dr Evangelos Zympeloudis, CEO, iCOMAT Ltd | www.icomat.co.uk


For more information about RIFBristol visit its website. The University Enterprise Zone is also made up of the Health Tech HubFuture SpaceLaunch Space and the Bristol Robotics Laboratory Hardware Incubator.

Two-day Innovation and bid writing workshop

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Tues 21 & Wed 22 Sept, 09:00 – 16:30

Develop an innovative business idea and learn how to get funding for your project. This 2 day in-person course (based in Swindon, venue tbc) offered by the Innovation 4 Growth programme (I4G) is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and is free to SMEs, start-ups or small charities in the Swindon & Wiltshire region.

This course is aimed at ambitious businesses working on an innovation project. We are looking for SMEs that want to develop their innovative ideas, cultivate their narrative around the project and are working towards further funding and investment.

We are delivering this course while our Innovation 4 Growth grant funding is available and hope that some participants will use the workshop to create, or further progress their project idea to then successfully apply for an I4G grant.

Places are limited to 20 SMEs, and we welcome prestart as well as established businesses, the content will be relevant to all sizes of SME.

Register to book your place now.

Introduction

As markets and conditions recover, investing in innovation is key to helping businesses future proof, grow their markets and adapt to opportunities. This intensive 2-day workshop is for SMEs that are responding to new opportunities and looking to disrupt the market through innovation.

You may already have a great idea that needs developing or you are looking for some headspace to figure it out. This comprehensive course helps you to define your proposition in terms of innovation; familiarise you with the funding landscape, develop your pitch and hone your bid writing skills.

What will you get from this course?

It is a practical workshop with plenty of discussion and interaction, with time allowed to develop your project as we work through each section.

This course is available to SMEs working towards an innovation project.

We will:

  • Introduce you to the fundamentals of bringing innovation into your business.
  • Give you essential innovation tools to help you generate creative ideas, as well as evaluate and test them for your business.
  • Improve your understanding of how innovation projects can be funded and how to write winning bids.
  • Provide you with the confidence, practical skills and techniques to pitch your idea.
  • Support your application for our Innovation 4 Growth grant fund and create a foundation for future applications.

As places are limited, we request that you commit to the full two-day programme. We expect participants to work in small collaborative groups and engage in peer-to-peer learning.

Is this course for you?

This course is designed to be relevant for SMEs or small charities that are developing innovative ideas and wish to turn these ideas into successful new products or services. We will help you to articulate your innovation projects and take them to the next stage.

This in-person course is funded by the ERDF and is free to SMEs in the Swindon & Wiltshire region. We have limited spaces as the sessions are designed to be interactive. Apply here stating your business, area of interest and why you should be selected for the programme.

Timings

Doors open at 9:00 for coffee and networking. Lunch will be provided at 12:30pm-13:30pm.

Tuesday 21 Sept – Day 1 :

  • 9:30 – 10:30: Intrapreneurship – creating an intrapreneurial mindset for growth with Shane Moore
  • 10:30 – 14:30 (including an hour break for lunch): Innovation and Ideation: how to solve your challenges with Aimee Skinner
  • 14:30 – 16:30: The Innovation Narrative: Pitching your idea with Lucy Paine

Wednesday 22 Sept – Day 2:

  • 9:30 – 12:30: Introduction to Funding & Investment with Mark Corderoy
  • 13:30 – 16:30: How to write an innovation funding bid with Alan Gould

Terms

Available for SMEs in the Swindon & Wiltshire LEP Region.
Places are limited to 20 SMEs. Get in touch if you have any questions innovation4growth@uwe.ac.uk.

Click here to register your interest in this workshop.

Notes:

This event is delivered by the Innovation 4 Growth programme and funded by the ERDF for the benefit of SMEs in the Swindon & Wiltshire Region. Your attendance at this event will count towards State Aid and by participating you are agreeing to ERDF business support and the accompanying documentation.

European Regional Development Fund:
The project will receive funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund.

Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit here.

Free two day Innovation and bid writing workshop for SMEs

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Dates:  Wednesday 7 July and Thursday 8 July 2021

Develop a digital innovation business idea and get micro funding for your project. This 2 day in-person course (based at UWE Frenchay) offered by the Digital Innovation Fund (DIF) is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and is free to SMEs in the West of England area.

This course is aimed at ambitious businesses working on a digital innovation project. We are looking for SMEs that want to develop their innovative ideas. This would suit those that want to develop their narrative and are working towards further funding and investment. We offer SMEs that have completed the course the opportunity to bid for micro grants of up to £5,000 to implement their ideas. Places are limited to 20 SMEs.

Book your place now. 

Introduction

As markets and conditions recover, investing in innovation is key to helping businesses future proof, grow their markets and adapt to opportunities. This intensive 2-day workshop is for SMEs that are responding to new opportunities and looking to disrupt the market through digital innovation.

You may already have a great idea that needs developing or you are looking for some headspace to figure it out. This comprehensive course helps you to define your proposition in terms of innovation; familiarise you with the funding landscape, develop your pitch and hone your bid writing skills. We also have a limited number of micro grants (up to £5,000) available through an application process for participants who complete the full course.

What will you get from this course?

This course is available to SMEs working towards a digital innovation project.

We will:

  • Introduce you to the fundamentals of bringing innovation into your business.
  • Give you practical innovation tools to help you generate creative ideas, evaluate and test them for your business.
  • Help you understand how innovation projects can be funded and how to write winning bids.
  • Give you the confidence, practical skills and techniques to pitch your idea.
  • Get a chance to bid for up to £5,000 to get your project going.

Because places are limited, we request that you commit to the full programme.  We expect participants to work in small collaborative groups and engage in peer-to-peer learning.

Is this course for you?

This course is designed to be relevant for SMEs or small charities that are developing innovative ideas and to turn these ideas into successful new products or services. We will help you to articulate your innovation projects and take your ideas to the next stage. 

This in-person course is funded by the ERDF and is free to SMEs in the West of England.  We have limited spaces as the sessions are designed to be interactive.  Apply here stating your business, area of interest and why you should be selected for the programme.

Timings

Doors open at 9:00 for coffee and networking. Lunch will be provided at 12:30pm-13:30pm.

Day 1:
  • Morning 9:30 – 12:30: Innovation and Ideation: how to solve your challenges with Aimee Skinner
  • Afternoon 13:30 – 16:30: The Innovation Narrative: Pitching your idea with Lucy Paine
Day 2:


Terms

  • Available for SMEs in the West of England LEP region (Bristol, Bath and North East Somerset, North Somerset, South Gloucestershire).
  • Open to SMEs that have not already attended a workshop or previously received a grant from the DIF programme.
  • Places are limited to 20 SMEs.
  • Only SMES that complete a business assist evidence form may apply for a micro grant.

Get in touch if you have any questions DIF@uwe.ac.uk. Click to here register your interest in this workshop.

Notes

This event is delivered by the Digital Innovation Fund and funded by the ERDF for the benefit of SMEs in the West of England. We will be guiding SMEs and Social Enterprises through the enterprise innovation and ideation process, creative design sprints and agile working practices to support new product design, improve resource efficiency and R&D activities. Your attendance at this event will count towards to State Aid and by participating, you are agreeing to ERDF business support and accompanying documentation


European Regional Development Fund:

The project will receive funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.  The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund.

Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations.  For more information visit here.

West of England region: All organisations with a presence in Bristol, Bath, BANES and South Gloucestershire.

Case Study: Digital Innovation Fund Business Landmrk

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As part of a suite of support offered to SMEs during the pandemic, last year we launched the Digital Innovation Fund. The programme, which was funded by the European Regional Development Fund, was open to SMEs in the West of England region who were looking to digitally innovate.

Over the past 6 years, UWE Bristol has worked with thousands of SMEs across the region, helping them to grow and innovate.  This has led to the investment of £10,000,000 and creation or safeguarding of over 1400 jobs. As well as offering funding, these programmes offer: dedicated one to one support for SMEs through the project design and application process; support in delivering a successful project once it’s been funded; and a series of workshops and hackathons.

The Digital Innovation Fund has successfully funded 36 companies, awarding grants of up to £40,000 and support to everyone who engaged with the project. Below we share the story of one the successful SMEs, Landmrk:

Landmrk allows artists and brands to create virtual ‘treasure hunts’ that encourage fans to explore the real world to find digital content. However, the COVID-19 pandemic devastated the music industry and caused all touring to stop, ultimately halting business for Landmrk.

As the severity of the COVID-19 pandemic became clear, the reality of months at home set in. During these times there has been an even greater need than ever for escapism, distractions and (self-isolated) fun. Landmrk, often called Pokémon GO for music, diversified their offering and created the Virtual Tours product, with help from a Digital Innovation Fund grant, in response to this.

The Virtual Tours platform gives artists the opportunity to deliver a branded experience to their fans. As the tour rolls into town a hotspot will open up at the venue. Fans within travelling distance of the gig will be able to unlock a series of content pieces that are delivered to them from their favourite music artist.

The Virtual Tours product allows artists to generate a new revenue stream through paywalled content and experiences, delighting fans with immersive content, digital collectibles and contextual merchandising.

Seth Jackson, Landmrk CEO commentated:

“Hard times cause for swift innovation. The Digital Innovation Fund allowed us to move at pace towards building out and launching new features on the Landmrk platform that are particularly relevant to an industry that has suffered greatly during the pandemic.

The support and funding enabled us to create Landmrk Virtual Tours – a revenue generating platform for music artists and entertainers, that gives them the tools to deliver immersive content to their fans, and generate unique pieces of digital merchandise that can be turned into t-shirts and posters that are delivered anywhere in the world in a matter of days.”

Landmrk are currently supporting the Icelandic Eurovision contender Daði Freyr with his virtual world tour. The music artist’s Virtual Tour will delight fans around the globe with 2D holographic performances, dynamic merchandise and unique digital collectibles

Fans around the globe are invited to be part of the Daði Freyr World Tour by visiting road2rotterdam.com on their mobile phone.

The Virtual Tour begins on April 1st in Daði’s hometown of Reykjavik, before setting off on a transcontinental journey that visits fifty destinations in sixty days. The digital nature of the tour has allowed it to be expanded beyond the original UK and European dates into Asia, Africa, Australia, North and South America. The Daði tour bus will roll into town and entertain audiences in places such as Cambodia, Jakarta and Lago.

The virtual tour bus will be in Bristol on Monday 19 April.

The Digital Innovation Fund is open to support SMEs in the West of England until December 2022. To be the first to hear about the next round of support available, please register your interest at: www.digitalinnovationfund.co.uk.


The Digital Innovation Fund (DIF) is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). DIF receives up to £1.9m of funding from ERDF, as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for ERDF. Established by the European Union, the ERDF helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, job creation and local community regeneration.

UWE Bristol launches new funding scheme to support SMEs with research and development projects in Swindon & Wiltshire

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UWE Bristol are launching a new round of Innovation 4 Growth, a funding programme that supports SMEs in Swindon & Wiltshire undertaking innovative research and development (R&D) projects. 

SMEs can apply for grants of £10,000 to £40,000 to help their projects, with the programme covering 35% of project costs. 

Funded by the European Regional Development Fund, and delivered by UWE Bristol, Innovation 4 Growth is open to projects from all sectors,creating new products, new services and new jobs in the region. Applicants must be small or medium sized enterprises and based in Swindon & Wiltshire. 

Businesses can access dedicated support from a team of experts at UWE Bristol to help businesses develop project ideas and submit grant applications.

Register your interest for an application form and one to one support at www.innovation4growth.co.uk

The programme is also hosting a series of free training workshops, starting on 11 May 2021, for SMEs in Swindon & Wiltshire to support them to develop innovative products, processes, technologies, and services. The workshops will be suitable for SMEs at any stage that want to innovate and grow their businesses. Register your interest for more information and an invite to sign up at www.innovation4growth.co.uk.

Professor Martin Boddy, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise at UWE Bristol, said: “UWE Bristol is proud to be supporting SMEs in Swindon & Wiltshire. This programme aims to support companies to realise their potential through innovation and R&D. The Innovation 4 Growth programme in the West of England has supported hundreds of companies, giving out £1.5m of grants and created 130 jobs. We are excited to be able to bring Innovation 4 Growth to Swindon & Wiltshire and look forward to working with the region’s SMEs.”

Paddy Bradley, Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership CEO, said of the scheme: “SMEs are the beating heart of our local economy and we welcome this effective grant funding programme to the area. Targeting innovation through funding research and development programmes will help elevate our region through job creation, skills development and new to market products. I am looking forward to seeing the work that comes out of this exciting programme.”

UWE Bristol are currently running a separate funding scheme for SMEs in Gloucestershire who want to apply for grant funding to scale up. Find out more about Scale Up 4 Growth here. SMEs in the West of England can access free Digital Support from UWE Bristol, find out more here.


Notes to editors

Swindon & Wiltshire Innovation 4 Growth is a business support programme delivered by UWE Bristol and funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Swindon & Wiltshire Innovation 4 Growth will receive up to £760,000 of funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) Growth Programme 2014-2020.  The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for ERDF. Established by the European Union, the ERDF helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, job creation and local community regeneration.

Scale Up 4 Growth launches funding programme in Gloucestershire with £1m of grants available to help the region’s SMEs scale and grow

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Scale Up 4 Growth (S4G), a funding and support programme that brings together experts from UWE Bristol, NatWest and Gloucestershire College, will deliver grant funding and support to businesses in Gloucestershire. 

The programme, funded through the European Regional Development Fund, is open to businesses in any sector with ambitious growth plans. Applicants must be small or medium sized enterprises and based in the Gloucestershire LEP Region: Tewkesbury, Cheltenham, Gloucester, Forest of Dean, Stroud and Cotswolds.

Grants of £10,000 to £40,000 are available to help address the challenges that Gloucestershire businesses face when growing and scaling up their operations. The grants will cover 35% of business’ costs.

Dedicated support from a team of experts at UWE Bristol will be given to help businesses develop project ideas and submit grant applications.

Professor Martin Boddy, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise at UWE Bristol, said: “UWE Bristol is proud to be supporting SMES in Gloucestershire. This programme aims to stimulate the regional economy at such an important time by helping companies to realise their potential. The S4G programme in the West of England has supported over 80 companies, giving out £850,000 in grants and creating 150 jobs. Gloucestershire is full of innovation and we are thrilled to be able to bring this scheme to the region.”

Andy Bates, Vice Principal and Chief Financial Officer at Gloucestershire College said: “Our job at Gloucestershire College is to help local businesses to grow. For years, Gloucestershire College has been enabling this growth as the go-to training provider for employers in the county to develop their staff, hire new talent and strengthen their organisation with quality training.

We are thrilled to be partnering with UWE Bristol and NatWest to now bring £1m worth of capital into Gloucestershire, acting as a catalyst for growth, innovation and progression. The S4G scheme has already been a great success in the West of England and now we are bringing it to the SMEs of Gloucestershire.

There is no doubt that the last year has been challenging for businesses but we are committed to helping Gloucestershire come back stronger. This is the time to innovate and I urge employers to use the S4G scheme to level up for their future.”

Mike West, Director, Commercial Banking NatWest, Gloucestershire, said: “Building on the success of S4Gprogramme in the West of England, we are delighted to be working in partnership with UWE Bristol and Gloucestershire College to support ambitious businesses across our Gloucestershire region access this growth funding and leading business support.”

S4G launches on Monday 1 March 2021. Applications for funding will close on Wednesday 5 May 2021. For more information and to register your interest please visit www.scaleup4growth.co.uk.


Notes to editors

European Regional Development Fund:

The project will receive up to £1.4m of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.  The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund.

Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations.  For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding.

Gloucestershire LEP Region: Tewkesbury, Cheltenham, Gloucester, Forest of Dean Stroud and Cotswolds.

UWE Bristol signs open letter calling for clarity and transparency on the future UK Shared Prosperity Fund

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UWE Bristol, as part of the University Alliance (UA), has signed an open letter, alongside over 70 organisations from across the UK, calling for clarity and transparency on the future UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) to avoid vital support disappearing when existing programmes end in 2023.

EU Structural Funds have been a key enabler of collaboration between universities and business, used to support and develop communities and regions; whether through programmes that have increased employment and skills, or through initiatives to drive forward research, innovation and enterprise.

Director of Research, Business and Innovation at UWE Bristol Tracey John said:

EU Structural Funds play a vital role in helping us achieve our ambitious goals for helping businesses within the region.

As a university we have won £13m of EU Structural Funds since 2017, allowing us to leverage £14m of company investment in research and innovation. This in turn has enabled us to help countless SMEs within the region, creating hundreds of new jobs, products and services.

One of the beneficiaries of our funding is 299 Lighting. Talking at an event for companies who have been awarded grants from UWE Bristol, they explained “the funding allowed us to expand our business to the next level… setting up our own manufacturing in Bristol and grow our team and own the product range”. Talking at the same event, The Real Olive Company explained that funding “brought everything into focus and helped us push forward with projects and ideas.”

Without a timely replacement of the funds, we are putting at risk many of the projects and schemes that we run for businesses in the region, which will have a direct impact on the region’s economy, particularly during such times of economic uncertainty.”

University Alliance Chief Executive Vanessa Wilson said:

“EU structural funds have been a vital mechanism for universities to support businesses and communities – especially throughout the pandemic. Details of their replacement, the UKSPF, have been promised but not delivered, and time is running out as we approach the end of the Brexit transition period.

“University and business leaders want to work constructively and proactively with the Government now to address the current economic challenges and reduce inequalities between regions. Given the uncertainty ahead, it has never been more important to deliver the UKSPF, which will be a vehicle for the much-needed long-term planning and investment needed to level-up the nation.”

UWE Bristol is committed to supporting economic development in the region and full supports the need for clarity around these funds.

Follow this link to read the open letter from UA.

Follow this link to find out more about our funds.

Introducing the Digital Innovation Fund: UWE Bristol’s £1m Covid-19 Recovery Fund

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In response to Covid-19, UWE Bristol is launching a Digital Innovation Fund to help businesses to innovate during these turbulent times. 

UWE’s Digital Innovation Fund provides business support and £1m in grants for small and medium sized business in the West of England. 

The scheme, funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), offers eligible businesses innovation grants from £10,000 to £40,000 to fund 35% of project costs.

Grants are open to businesses in any sector that want to innovate and address new challenges that have arisen from Covid-19. Applicants must be small or medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and based in Bristol, Bath & North East Somerset, North Somerset or South Gloucestershire.

Deadlines for application: 8 July.

Apply now

Pro Vice Chancellor for Research and Enterprise Professor Martin Boddy commented: “UWE Bristol is delighted to open its Digital Innovation Fund, £1m  of grant funding to support businesses in the West of England to address  new challenges caused by Covid-19.

Any SME in the area that is undertaking a digital innovation or research and development project should consider applying. We are offering a sliding scale of grants, from £10k to £40k, so hopefully there is a funding option for a range of businesses – from start-ups and micro enterprises, to more established organisations. The application process is straightforward and UWE Bristol staff are available to provide hands-on support through a series of confidential 1:1 drop-in sessions.

Digital Innovation Fund follows on from previous successful grant funding schemes run by the University, which has given £2m of grants to thriving businesses in the West of England, creating over 150 new jobs and over 100 new products and services. We are looking forward to this new fund delivering similar benefits to the local economy, and helping individual SMEs to innovate and grow.

In a time of unprecedented change, UWE Bristol is proud of the role it can play to support the region’s SMEs in responding to the pandemic and financial crisis.

Now is the time to innovate.

The Digital Innovation Fund is funded by the European Regional Development Fund.


Notes to editors:

European Regional Development Fund:

The project (has received) £4,230,000 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.  The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund.

Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations.  For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding.

West of England region: All organisations with a presence in Bristol, Bath, BANES and South Gloucestershire.

UWE Bristol awards grants to local businesses as part of Scale up 4 Growth Initiative

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Scale Up 4 Growth (S4G) is a free programme of support, being delivered by UWE Bristol, NatWest and Foot Anstey, for businesses in the West of England that are looking to grow, expand and scale. As part of this ERDF funded programme, 27 successful businesses have been awarded grants ranging between £10k and £40k to help their businesses grow.

Since launching last year nearly 350 businesses have registered for S4G support, which also includes fully funded workshops and 1-to-1 expertise. The companies who applied for S4G grant funding were rigorously assessed through a competitive process. The 27 selected businesses received grants totalling £800,000.

The successful businesses have come from a big range of sectors and areas including digital, data, health tech, waste, recycling, media, microelectronics, b2b, social enterprise, as well food and drink businesses. The list ranges from an award-winning, independent, artisan bakery and café, to a company who have developed the world’s first chemical-free pool filter

Find out more about the Scale Up 4 Growth programme and hear from some of the businesses that were successful in receiving grants

See the website for the list of all successful businesses.

Programme Director, Tracey John commented:

“Scale Up 4 Growth is the in region to support the businesses that need some help to grow. It’s been great to work with the successful businesses that have got some exciting growth plans but just need that extra little bit of support that the University can give. Working with NatWest and Foot Anstey as partners on this programme has been fantastic and they have been hugely supportive throughout.”

Director Commercial Banking at NatWest, Matt Hatcher commented:

“NatWest has thoroughly enjoyed working with UWE and Foot Anstey on the S4G programme, helping SMEs get access to quality coaching, knowledge and funding to support their ambitious growth plans”.

Partner at Foot Anstey, Nathan Peacey commented:

“Foot Anstey have found the S4G programme both inspiring and rewarding”

The successful businesses met for the first time at a celebration event held at UWE Bristol’s University Enterprise Zone on Wednesday 23 October. The breakfast event gave the businesses the opportunity to meet other successful businesses and share what the money means to them.

The Scale Up 4 Growth team continue to work with the successful businesses. To find out more about potentially funding opportunities and how we could help your business sign up to the Research, Business and Innovation newsletter from UWE Bristol or email uwebusiness@uwe.ac.uk

To find out more about S4G please visit the website.

Notes to Editors:

Scale Up 4 Growth will receive up to £1,200,000 of funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) is the programme’s Managing Authority. Established by the European Union, the ERDF helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects that support innovation, businesses, job creation and local community regeneration.

Network for Creative Enterprise: a few highlights of achievements, challenges, learning and what next.

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In this blog post, Network Producer Vanessa Bellaar Spruijt shares an update on one of UWE Bristol’s ERDF funded programmes -Network for Creative Enterprise (NfCE).

NfCE is made up of four hubs across Bristol and Bath: Watershed, The Guild (Coworking Bath), Knowle West Media Centre and Spike Island.

Each hub has offered residency opportunities with free space and a package of business development support. By bringing together expertise from fine art to fabrication to creative technology, the network has been better equipped to share resources and provide business development opportunities to the creative sector.

Network for Creative Enterprise has enabled the partners to offer tailored events, workshops and mentoring for individuals and small enterprises to support their business development from the idea stage through to start-up and on to growth.
Over the duration of the project 138 creatives have worked at the hubs and have engaged in 35 creative development workshops and other learning opportunities.

The NfCE partnership and supported programme finishes at the end of June 2019 with an Exhibition called ‘Another Way Works: an exhibition of creative business journeys. Find out more about the exhibiton and how to get involved here.

I am the Network Producer for NfCE at Watershed in Bristol and presented recently to producers of similar projects and the Department for Culture, Digital, Media and Sport as part of Arts Council England’s Creative Local Growth Fund away day. I talked about some of our achievements and learnings and thought it would be good to also share them here (although turning a talk into a blog post is a much harder task than I imagined).

NfCE is a network working in partnership between the UWE Bristol and four West of England hubs: The Guild co-working space in Bath and three Bristol hubs: Spike Island, KWMC The Factory and Watershed. NfCE is funded by Arts Council England and the European Regional Development Fund.

The partnership finishes at the end of June 2019. To explain a little about how we work: each hub has a producer and offers business support for creative individuals and micro companies to develop their creative idea into an economically sustainable enterprise, they are also offered free space for the duration of the programme.

Our support is shaped in two ways:
1) a pre-planned programme, including business mentoring sessions, law and tax clinics, business development bursaries and producer support.
2) a highly flexible and evolving strand of activity consisting of workshops, intensive courses and bespoke support which is responsive to residents’ needs.

Just like most worthwhile experiences in life, the success of this programme has people at the heart of it. As this resident at KWMC The Factory who has recently cut down her salaried days in order to build her own jewellery and exhibition business reflects:

“NfCE has been more to me than access to amazing facilities, information and funding. It has helped me connect with like-minded people and it’s really changed my working life being able to bounce ideas around and get inspired! I’m very proud to be part of a network with such talented and supportive residents and staff alike!”

Network for Creative Enterprise has all sorts of impact, but I think the two key achievements are:
1) Establishing a network of organisations who are all working towards a common talent development programme with the ability to share learning in real time.

Some of the hubs we are working with didn’t have mature residency programmes and the programme has enabled a more robust offering with good sharing and co-working practices thereby strengthening the talent support capacity in the region (which is the West of England). By bringing together expertise from fine art to fabrication and creative technology, we are better equipped to share resources and provide business development opportunities to the growing freelance and micro-enterprise ecology within the cultural and creative sector.

2) Creating a network of peers to support each other that will outlast the project.

We currently have 138 active residents across the hubs and over 900 people participating in wider activity. They are increasingly active in forging peer to peer relationships as our activities invite residents to the different hubs, allowing for more cohesion between the physical locations and the opportunities we each have to offer. Peer support networks are a strong focus area for our final activity on the programme.

Naturally, this complex project has a series of challenges, but I think the two main challenges are:

1) Metrics

Although, reasonably, we are asked to measure impact (in this case in the form of progress against targets) in order to justify our funding, this can be hard in our sector. Most notably, the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) defines a job as nothing less than a year long, full time contract (or two part-time posts equivalent) which is difficult to reconcile with the broader economic realities in the cultural and creative sector.

34% of the creative industry workforce is made up of freelancers. A snapshot of a part of our community shows that the majority of people are working upwards of 20 hours per week on their own business and are paying themselves a base salary in most cases, but not enough to be recognised as a job by ERDF. A smaller group have PAYE staff but typically for two or three days per week on a six-month contract which, again, does not count. Moreover, during this project most residents, businesses or sole traders, are hiring or have hired temporary freelancers amounting to hundreds of days of work but zero ‘jobs’ by the official definition.

Not being able to count the economic activity of the eco-system is unrepresentative and therefore a risk for the future funding of similar projects. We no longer live in an industrialised world, where linear rapid growth metrics apply. The creative sector with its high proportion of freelancers, so called ‘life style businesses’, cross sector collaborations and disruptive innovation is a complex mixed bag that deserves the right support at the right time to flourish.

2) Budget Inflexibility

To meet ERDF requirements the budgets for this project were very precisely created at the onset with specific activity and spend allocations. As explained, we structure the majority of our programme to be responsive to the needs and demands of our resident communities and hence some of the ideas we had at the beginning have needed to change to support development of the individual residents.

The inflexibility around budget categories and procurement thresholds means that we are regularly re-inventing the wheel around types of support as well as struggling to find capacity to produce new programmes that we would like to pay for.

We have not successfully overcome these challenges, but we have mostly found a compromise. We have shaped our programme to reach the targets we need, while working hard to protect the ability to create meaningful support. Despite the constraints we are over target on a range of categories, which is great for reporting purposes. In our world many of the residents have accelerated their businesses but it remains frustrating that this is not recognised by ERDF at present.

Clearly it is incredible and important that we have been given funding to create a programme like this and both ACE and ERDF teams have been nothing but brilliant in accommodating our programme needs, and working with a mixture of funders in collaboration is progressive. However, I also think it is important to highlight when some of the mechanisms around the funding criteria themselves do not work as well as they could do – for the sake of all of us working in the creative sector.

What is the most important lesson for us?

We are trying to support a complex ecosystem with diverse economic communities and hugely varying needs. Funding needs to be more flexible and more time needs to be built in to develop formats with participants.
We are working with people who are worried about registering with HMRC for taxes on one end of the scale, and people who need to set up a board because they have expanded their business so much on the other.
There are no linear pathways and hence we need to be as flexible as possible to allow us to offer the right support at the right time. That way we can really help businesses accelerate and grow.

The strength of the cultural sector is its diversity and therefore flexibility is vital.

What next?

On 6 June 2019 we will launch an exhibition ‘Another Way Works’ showcasing the unique maps of a selection of 12 creative business journeys that have taken place with support from Network for Creative Enterprise. This will be a chance to reflect on the programme and interrogate some of the business development stories in depth.

For most of June, the exhibition space at KWMC will become a place to share key learnings and insights from the NfCE programme, in the form of visual display and through a series of live events, including workshops. There will be activity for producers on these types of programmes as well as residents who enrol on these types of programmes. We will also focus on peer networks and signpost to other business support opportunities in the West of England.

The more we actively seek to recognise and celebrate difference, the more chance we have to create long-lasting and meaningful impact, networks and a vibrant creative ecosystem that is recognised for its economic worth as well as everything else.