In spite of the global pandemic, Innovate UK EDGE has helped South West regional innovators raise over £32m in equity investments and loans, and more than £24m in grant funding, during the time since the first national lockdown.
Bespoke 1-2-1 support from Innovate UK EDGE Finance Specialists has helped South West innovators to become investment ready, identify appropriate funding sources, and submit high-quality grant applications.
Throughout the pandemic, ambitious, innovation led businesses from Cornwall to Gloucestershire have also benefited from the wider range of specialist-led growth support from Innovate UK EDGE, helping them negotiate the new challenges presented and, where appropriate, pivot their business models.
Many technology-led businesses have needed the support from Innovate UK EDGE to help redefine their business strategy, introduce customer centric design to help target new markets, develop new sales and marketing initiatives, and identify international partners.
Across the South West, Innovate UK EDGE has supported more than 300 companies in the last year, helping them to create 214 new jobs and maintain 163 existing roles.
Over 40 regional businesses have accessed new markets with Innovate UK EDGE support, while 129 have reported benefit through improved innovation management, strategy development, or the adoption of new technologies, processes or culture.
“Innovate UK EDGE is here to help drive the economic prosperity of the South West and improve our standing in the global economy,” says Paul O’Collins, Manager of Innovate UK EDGE operations in the South West.
“We do this by providing the practical support necessary to help high potential innovators overcome barriers to growth and turn their ideas, projects and research into tangible market value.
“Through our interventions, South West businesses have been able to improve their innovation capabilities, identify commercial and collaboration opportunities, both domestically and internationally, and access the funding and finance needed to fuel growth.”
Innovate UK EDGE South West also continues to deliver national initiatives including grants for IP Audits, the Pitchfest investment readiness scheme and financial grants of up to £15,000 to access the UK’s Catapult Centres and other RTOs.
Innovate UK EDGE also delivers the Global Business Innovation Programme (GBIP), which provides market visits and the identification of partners for international collaboration and growth.
Just one of the many beneficiaries of GBIP is Gloucestershire-based graphene research company, Versarien PLC, who recently secured £1.93m in investment from major South Korean technology company, Graphene Lab, following a GBIP country visit.
The Seoul-based company has since provided state-of-the-art research and development facilities in Korea, alongside the £1.93m investment, enabling Versarien to develop new graphene-based technologies for the electronics sector.
“The GBIP allowed us to foster critical relationships and gain a foothold in South Korea. We’ve since been able to establish some extremely promising partnerships and can begin growing rapidly in-country,” says Matt Walker, Head of International Strategy & Government Relations at Versarien.
Innovate UK EDGE has also worked intensively to sustain innovative companies that have been severely impacted by the pandemic.
Dorset-based i2r Medical, a developer of highly advanced medical devices, saw their business decline by 80% directly due to the effects of COVID. Innovate UK EDGE stepped in to identify new sources of revenue, support international expansion and connect i2r with five businesses that all became paying clients. The company is now seeing significant growth.
“Innovate UK EDGE had the expertise and the willingness to understand our business and create a bespoke plan that has been hugely impactful,” says Keith Heaton, Managing Director of i2r Medical.
O’Collins continues: “whilst not desirable, adversity drives innovation, and we have great faith in the ingenuity and potential of the South West technology sectors to overcome the challenges that COVID has presented.”
But it’s not just O’Collins who thinks that the South West has much to offer. Recent reports from The CBI and Lloyds Banking Group highlight that out of the nine English regions, the South West is the most innovative and second most resilient to economic hardship.
Meanwhile, Tech Nation reports that only the “golden triangle” of the South East and the East of England received more investment in start-ups last year.
“The South West is a hotbed of ideas and innovation with great strengths in cyber and defence, high-value manufacturing, aerospace, fintech, maritime, creative industries and green technologies,” says O’Collins.
“Innovate UK EDGE will continue to provide game-changing growth support to all innovation led businesses. We want to help our most forward thinking, high growth companies to scale rapidly and benefit us all.”