University of Bath ‘acceleration hub’ aims to boost region’s digital sector

Business support for 100 digitally-innovative small and medium-sized enterprises from across the West of England is to become available through a new ‘business acceleration hub’ set up by the University of Bath.

The university has been awarded £1.5m from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to deliver start-up, scale-up, open innovation and investment support to help grow 100 digital businesses along with 130 firms in the advanced engineering sectors over three years. 

The digital innovation hub will work with SMEs to benefit the health, wellbeing and creative media sectors, while a second advanced engineering hub will ‘pump prime’ SMEs to engage with the university’s planned £60m automotive research facility – the Institute for Advanced Automotive Propulsion Systems (IAAPS) – scheduled to open on the Bristol & Bath Science Park in 2020. 

Support will be provided in a number of ways including grants of up to £10,000, knowledge exchange, mentoring, research and innovation expertise and resource, business-university research partnerships, as well as bringing SMEs together with large corporate businesses though existing investor networks.

The university will work with a number of key external partners including the West of England’s four local authorities.

The senior lead on the project, University of Bath director of research & innovation services Dr Jon Hunt said: “The long-term impact of the project will be a much-improved innovation eco-system, where local SMEs will establish deep long-term relationships with the university that are mutually beneficial.”

Professor in Human and Applied Physiology in the university’s Department for Health and programme lead for the digital innovation hub, James Bilzon, added: “This project will enable the university to offer its expertise and facilities to work with businesses to undertake research, development and innovation leading to the adoption and commercialisation of new products, services and technologies that will drive this sector’s growth and productivity, particularly in the health and healthcare sectors.”

Acting head of enterprise Adam Hickman, who successfully secured the funding, said the project demonstrated the true definition of a partnership project and showed how the university could play an important role in delivering the government’s Industrial Strategy.

“This is the third ERDF grant we have secured, allowing us to make a lasting difference to economic growth and academic-business partnerships in the region,” he said

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