ERDF projects on show

We invite you to join Aston University on Monday 24th March for a showcase of the subsidised business support projects which have been funded by the University and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The event will be an opportunity for you to meet researchers and discuss accessing the University’s research and expertise for the benefit of your company.

See below to view a brief introduction to the projects, where support to companies is free or subsidised, and which will be on show at the event. There will be displays and a number of presentations about these projects, with networking over drinks and canapés. The event will run from 5.30pm until 7.30pm in Aston University’s new Conference Centre located within its Main Building, and you are very welcome to join us at any point during these times. Directions will be provided when you register to attend.

In addition to the projects listed below, we have a wide range of other services for businesses, and a selection of these will also be present during the evening.

This event is free, but registration is required. If you are interested in attending, please contact Elizabeth Rogers (email e.rogers2@aston.ac.uk or telephone 0121 204 5486).

Exploiting Servitization in West Midlands SMEs   

Aston Business School runs regular strategy workshops for manufacturing SMEs and/or SME technology-innovators in the West Midlands. To date, they have supported 28 through their 2-day workshop programme where they help senior executives to understand how to create new, and resilient, revenue streams through utilising new business models. 

In the last year, a number of our participating SMEs have experienced growth in revenues of 20-30% from the introduction of new services as a result of changing their business model. We have also evidenced over £2.1m of gross value added (GVA) from 18 of the 28 SMEs supported so far (where data has been provided) against a target of £8.3m. We are looking for more SMEs to assist during 2014 and invite you get in touch to explore how this fully-subsidised programme could help your business. More information is available here.

Transformation for Growth 

Is your business under pressure to improve performance and grow in the market place? Do you therefore need to change?  We have a dedicated team who are available to support you achieve this change using proven methodologies, toolkits and transformational processes. The free support can be tailored to meet individual business needs and assist you deliver real, sustainable change within your business. Contact the team on 0121 204 3656  or  0121 204 3053 for more details and to check your eligibility.

Innovation Vouchers 

A project providing a small grant of £1,500 to promote innovation. The grant needs to be match funded £1 for £1 by the SME. The initiative also provides a series of workshops presenting innovation approaches and discussing mechanisms for accessing finance for innovation. The workshop content is drawn from Aston Business School’s original research into innovation and experience of running workshops for senior managers. More information is available here.

Promoting Biomarkers in West Midlands SMEs 

The project aims to assist West Midland Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to develop sophisticated and innovative biomarker technologies for their given field. The use of biomarkers will allow for quicker analysis with increased sensitivity whilst reducing overall costs, thereby increasing SME competitiveness.

SMEs assisted to date have been from the following sectors; biotechnology, bioanalytical, medical research, medical devices, water treatment and food manufacture. Interventions have included analysis of drug cytotoxicity towards mammalian cell lines, development of immunoassays, identification of biomarkers of chemical exposure using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry and shelf life testing to determine biomarkers of food product durability and determination of “smart surface” efficacy towards bacteria. Further details can be found on the project's website here. 

Graduate Advantage 

Graduate Advantage specialises in supporting small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in the West Midlands to grow with the support of interns. Working with locally based graduates and postgraduate students, we offer FREE recruitment support to organisations seeking an intern.  SMEs are offered financial support of up to £900 to help support the cost of recruitment. With a decade of experience, these activities have enabled businesses to grow, increase their resources and productivity.  Graduate Advantage collaborates with Universities across the region giving employers the best chance of finding high calibre interns who can make a difference. Telford based national awarding organisation, Industry Qualifications were delighted with the support they received from their intern: “Our intern showed a lot of initiative and demonstrated excellent research skills. The product development department's output doubled since he joined the team - and he picked up our processes and procedures really quickly.” More information can be found here.

Touch Digital

Touch Digital assists companies to innovate in/improve the design, usability, and use of interactive technologies.  Any technology which has a human interactive element is within the remit of the project.  This includes, but is by no means limited to, smartphone applications, e-commerce systems, and healthcare-related software applications.  Currently, the project is working with clients in the domains of e-learning, geochemistry, and occupational health.  The Touch Digital team at Aston is based in the Aston Interactive Media (AIM) Lab – a unique resource designed to support industry- and academia-led research into human interactive technologies.  Its team is led by Dr Jo Lumsden who is an internationally recognised researcher in applied human-computer interaction research experience.  She has extensive experience of conducting user-centred design and evaluation of technology using a range of methods, including focus groups, interviews, observational techniques, survey-based knowledge elicitation, and quantitative experimental methods.  She is Editor-in-Chief of the International Journal of Mobile HCI and was recently awarded the Most Influential Paper award at IBM’s 2013 CASCON conference for the influence her work from a decade earlier has had on the field of mobile interaction design. More information can be found here.

Fibre Optics and Laser Sensing Technologies Phase II

Aston University has secured funding for the second stage of a fibre optics and laser sensing technologies project to deliver technical support to SMEs in the West Midlands so that they understand the advantages and potential opportunities of embracing a range of photonics technologies in their business.

Photonics is the science and technology platform based on the use of photons (particles of light).  It is one of the fastest growing research and technology areas. Photonics-based applications include; telecommunications, data storage, optical imaging, medical diagnostics and many others. Photonics is a crucial enabling technology that can be used to raise the productivity of manufacturing companies in the West Midlands.

Examples of previous project activities include assisting a company to develop new gas sensing technologies for methane, humidity,  CO2 and hydrogen; assisting in the revolutionary development of contact lens measurement technology; testing the quality of light brought about by materials used in greenhouse construction;  and introducing the latest laser technology to food quality control and healthcare companies.  See further information here.