The challenge:

It is often the case that businesses have ambitions and plans which are being unfulfilled. SMEs have great products and services, and a vision of how to advance them further through R&D actions and innovation. Perhaps a business has spotted a gap in the market, an opportunity to develop and commercialise new products and services. Or the company is looking to introduce new working practices, digital technologies and achieve significant improvements to efficiency and productivity.

For many such SMEs, the challenge in achieving their ambitions lies in freeing up capacity and resources to focus on such projects. There might be an element of risk with these projects, and the returns may not be visible in the short-term. There may be gaps in knowledge and funding to allow the innovations to be realised, and this is holding the company back.

These challenges present an opportunity for the Sheffield Innovation programme to intervene and help to make them happen.

What we do

SIP can support SMEs in the Sheffield City Region as a means of ‘pump-priming’ and facilitating larger projects to happen through the initial intervention that SIP provides. For example, SIP has been used successfully to provide additional expertise, resource and capacity to regional SMEs in their pursuit of grant funding for innovation related projects through agencies such as Innovate UK.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) are a good example, whereby a regional SME identifies a strategic project that is innovative and will result in business growth, expansion and performance improvements. SIP funding can be used to support academic experts to work with the SME to undertake initial investigative or feasibility work to scope out the challenge, and to subsequently develop the KTP grant funding application.

The results

By utilising SIP funding in this way, regional SMEs have been able to access the resources and expertise that they otherwise wouldn’t have been able to, which has allowed them to realise their innovation focused projects.

One such example is Sheffield based SME, Highlander Computing Solutions. The company wanted to develop new software applications and modules for integration into ERP systems. SIP supported Highlander with access to senior academics in Business Information Systems and Technology at Sheffield Hallam University, who were able to help the company clarify its strategic vision, and through SIP, develop a successful KTP funding application which is supporting the company to innovate and develop new products and services. “The SIP support was invaluable” said Highlander MD Steven Brown, “it meant we could commit to the KTP application with confidence knowing that we had the help we needed.”

Equi-Trek Limited is another regional SME for whom SIP has been instrumental in a larger innovation project. Through SIP, a successful KTP funding application for a two-year project was developed, which has resulted in the introduction of new manufacturing/design methods and the launch of several new processes and products including an innovative motorised horsebox for the North American market. Equi-Trek MD Tom Janion said “this has been a great project for us, made possible by the support we received through SIP to get the funding application to the right standard.”

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