Vouchers to aid innovation

Advantage West Midlands (AWM) development agency is supporting innovation vouchers administered by AstonUniversity, which encourage companies to work with universities and colleges. Its aim is to incorporate new technologies and services back into businesses and so far £240,000 is up for grabs in the West Midlands.

The scheme, Innovation Delivers Expansion (INDEX), centres on the pooling of resources of 13 West Midlands universities and higher education institutions. Since June 2007, 140 vouchers have been awarded to SMEs and a further 80 are being advertised this month, worth £3,000 each.

A science and innovation white paper entitled Innovation Nation and published by the government in March 2008, contains a commitment for the regional development agencies to offer 500 business vouchers, aiming to increase this to 1,000 per year by 2011.

AWM director of innovation Philip Extance said: ‘Innovation is crucial to some of the biggest challenges we face, such as global warming and sustainable development. This scheme is successfully building on these challenges to forge links between universities and SMEs and establish a demand led approach to the business community’s approach to innovation.’