Research cash

A new £6m fund has been launched in Yorkshire and Humber to support academics demonstrate the commercial viability of their expertise.

A new £6m fund has been launched in Yorkshire and Humber to support academic researchers, staff and students demonstrate the commercial viability of their expertise.

A joint venture between Yorkshire Forward and Yorkshire Universities, the new proof of concept fund aims to encourage more commercially viable research projects and ideas out of the laboratory and classroom, and into the marketplace by providing early stage funding to demonstrate ‘proof of commercial concept’.

Yorkshire Forward – the Regional Development Agency for Yorkshire and the Humber – have invested £3m in the fund as part of their drive to encourage more knowledge driven business start ups in the region, whilst Yorkshire and Humber’s 10 higher education institutions will also collectively provide £3m.

‘In Yorkshire and Humber we are committed to creating more businesses that contribute to our economic growth and we know that there is a pipeline of ideas within our region’s universities that could create great businesses,’ said Alex McWhirter, head of enterprise at Yorkshire Forward.

‘Unfortunately, we also know that establishing proof of the commercial viability of these ideas is a high risk process, which makes it difficult for researchers to get projects out of the lab and towards the marketplace.’

Many research propositions can fall at the first hurdle of commercialisation because establishing proof of concept incurs cost without offering any guarantees – making it unattractive to the majority of investment sources. Research also shows that propositions that cannot demonstrate proof of concept have no basis on which to attract further funding.

The Yorkshire Concept fund aims to bridge this gap. ‘If we are to draw out the talent that exists in our region’s universities and allow it to contribute towards the creation of a knowledge driven economy in Yorkshire and Humber, then we need to take a calculated risk to get new ideas into the pipeline of development. Through this fund, we will be able to achieve this,’ added McWhirter.

The Fund has been launched following a two-year pilot initiative funded by the Higher Education Innovation Fund and developed by the universities of Bradford, Hull and Sheffield Hallam.

Now researchers and academics at the universities of Leeds, Leeds Metropolitan, Trinity and All Saints, York, York St Johns, Bradford, Huddersfield, Hull, Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam will now have the opportunity to present their research proposal to the Board of the Yorkshire Concept fund for appraisal.

Propositions that are found to have probable commercial viability will receive grants of between £30,000 and £70,000 – part funded between the host university and Yorkshire Forward – to help demonstrate full proof of concept.

In order to manage applications to the fund and provide commercial advice to accepted propositions, a fund director has been appointed through Yorkshire Universities – which works to represent the region’s HEIs on policy issues and coordinating the delivery of key projects in the region.