Innovation vouchers a resounding success


18 March 2011

Aston University has been identified as leading one of the country’s most exciting schemes to help businesses survive through the current economic crisis.

Now in its Seventh round (4th year), the Institution leads on providing small and medium-sized enterprises in the West Midlands with a £3,000 voucher. This can be used to directly link academic support with any of 13 universities in the West Midlands.

An independent study undertaken by Ecorys (formally ECOTEC Research and Consulting), of round 5 of Innovation Vouchers, highlighted a range of positives that have emerged from the University’s management and administration of the West Midlands Innovative Vouchers Scheme.

Highlights within this round include, that the scheme saw the highest number of business uptake since its launch, with 104 vouchers being approved. Feedback collected from the successful participants indicates a very high level of approval, with 64% being very satisfied with the overall relationships formed through the scheme.

Round Five of the programme has generated 7 net additional on-going jobs (£2.7m of GVA) and 7 temporary jobs (£195,000 of GVA). The activities delivered through Round Five have the potential to generate a further 60 jobs and over £2.1m as a result of innovations being implemented in the future.

The report also highlighted the effectiveness of the programme, which continues to perform as the most successful scheme of its type in UK. With round five generating a return on investment of £11.89 for each £1 of public sector funding, higher than the national average for science of £8.30.

The survey indicated that Innovation Vouchers represent a highly effective, low cost, approach to simulating relationships between universities and SMEs. It highlighted that just under half of successful applicants had no previous connections with universities and that one in five businesses continue to undertake work with academics on future projects.

Dr Phil Extance, Pro Vice Chancellor for Business Partnerships at Aston University, said; “Universities can provide a link between academia and business to provide practical information and innovative ideas to those managing small and medium-sized industries. We are delighted by the feedback on this scheme. We are hoping that we can continue to develop this approach despite the closure of AWM. Universities will continue to offer support to SME’s throughout the region in other ways.”

Current funding for the scheme comes to the end in March 2011. Anyone wanting further information about the scheme can contact Andrew Wilson at Aston Business School on 0121 204 3883.