A funding programme which helps business collaborate with Scotland’s universities and colleges has awarded over £6 million to boost innovation.
Funded by the Scottish Funding Council and administered by Interface, Innovation Vouchers offer a range of grants to help businesses offset the cost of collaborating with Scotland’s higher and further education institutes.
The funding can lead to positive impacts on business development with new products, processes and services. It also enhances university research through its application in real-world scenarios.
This month marks a key milestone for the funding programme, where more than 1,200 Standard Innovation Vouchers, with a value of up to £5,000 each, have been paid over the past seven years to support company-led innovations developed in partnership with a college or university. On top of this, 57 follow-on projects funded by the Scottish Funding Council, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise, have resulted in additional funding of £700,000 in the same time period.
Minister for Further and Higher Education Richard Lochhead said:
“Research and innovation are fundamental to create sustainable and inclusive growth. I very much welcome this milestone as evidence of the key role Innovation Vouchers and Interface play in creating additional value from the Scottish Government’s investment in our universities, colleges, innovation centres and research institutes to the benefit of businesses.”
Karen Watt, Chief Executive of the Scottish Funding Council, said:
“Innovation Vouchers play a vital role in connecting small and medium sized businesses with the knowledge and expertise in our colleges and universities. Across key industry sectors like energy, food and drink and tourism collaborations brought about through these vouchers have created new products, provided new services and supported new jobs.”
Dr Siobhàn Jordan, Director of Interface, said:
“This funding has enabled these businesses to further develop or enhance a commercial product or service or improve productivity through the creation of a new business process. That’s an incredible £6.7 million that has been paid out to support business innovation in Scotland over the past seven years alone.”
Recent changes to the Innovation Voucher Programme – including a new Workforce Innovation Voucher to support innovation to develop a company’s workforce - have introduced greater flexibility to all eligible Scottish Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) and a greater financial incentive to businesses to deepen their collaborations with their academic partner.
One such business that has benefited from the funding stream is Welbot, which was created to combat the ill effects of sedentary computer-bound working practices, in particular reducing employee stress and fatigue and helping manage musculoskeletal issues and general health through positive behaviour change. The company were matched by Interface to three universities to look at occupational stress, wellbeing in the workplace, and behaviour change in a technology setting, which helped the business develop and launch a commercial product.
Commenting on the level of support they have received from Interface, Welbot CEO Mykay Kamara, said:
“It’s amazing how much Interface have achieved in supporting us, especially with links to universities, across all the areas of expertise.”
Further information on Innovation Vouchers can be found here.
A full case study on Welbot’s collaborations with universities can be found here.