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£5.2 Million Programme Launched to Boost Innovation in Oxfordshire

A £5.2 million programme to encourage innovative business ideas within small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) was launched today by the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP) and its partners before a gathering of the county’s business community at Venturefest 2018.

Innovation Support for Business (ISfB) will boost opportunities for start-ups, small and medium businesses to thrive and innovate as well as enhance the infrastructure for research and innovation in Oxfordshire. Innovation has been identified as an important element of the future growth of the local economy.

“This is an important initiative to support new ideas and innovations amongst our SME community which will help our economy to prosper here in Oxfordshire”, said OxLEP’s Director of Business Development, Richard Byard. “Originality and ideas are what will drive Oxfordshire’s economic success in the future and that means making sure SMEs have the support they need to succeed.”

“It is especially hard for smaller businesses to innovate because they find it difficult to access the research facilities they need and to collaborate with research institutions in developing ideas.”

“Our Innovation Support for Business programme will support these smaller businesses to build the relationships they need, get the right commercial research resources and help them to bring new ideas and products to market.”

Half of the funding for the programme is coming from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Partners delivering the programme are matching the investment. These

include the University of Oxford, Cherwell District Council, Oxford City Council and Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Helen Brind, the Growth Hub Manager at OxLEP Business said: “ISfB is not exclusive to just cutting edge or technology-based enterprises. In fact, the programme is open to enterprises in most sectors with innovative ideas for their day-to-day business. We want to hear from any entrepreneur looking to do something differently.”

ISfB offers tailored packages of support to meet the specific needs of commercial enterprises. This includes one-to-one coaching and mentoring, workshops and Go-Create grants for innovation projects. The team facilitates links to specialist expertise, equipment and resources which are typically available only to larger companies. Co-working space is also being made available for entrepreneurs just starting out at the Bicester Eco Business Centre, SmartOxford Incubator and the Agile and Prototyping Labs in Begbroke.

Helen Brind explained: “You can access outstanding support from experienced people with the relevant skills to match your needs. Workshops, seminars and masterclasses offer insights and knowledge to help develop and commercialise ideas and Go-Create grants enable innovation projects.”

Go-Create funding offers up to 33% of project costs with grants available from £1,000 to £50,000.

OxLEP’s Chief Executive Nigel Tipple says this is a significant initiative, encouraging the participation of SMEs in the continuing growth of Oxfordshire’s economy at a time when there is so much change.

“It’s not just ‘big business’ ready to capitalise on future opportunities. The survival rate of small businesses in Oxford – and the wider county – suggests our business community is willing to be innovative to support growth.

Operating in such an optimistic environment is a major positive. It’s important that our SMEs are actively-engaged and aware of how they can be innovative; not just to support their own growth, but also Oxfordshire’s continued emergence as a genuine global asset.”

To get started and to find out more, contact the ISfB team on 01865 897180 or by email at innovation@oxfordshirelep.com