Innovation Vouchers

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What is the Innovation Vouchers Programme?

Innovation Vouchers scheme offers up to £2,500 to help small to medium sized enterprises create innovation and growth

SMEs in need of a cash injection to drive innovation and growth could be eligible for up to £2,500 in this year’s Innovation Vouchers scheme.

For every £1 a company can put up towards innovation and growth will be matched with a £1 contribution from the project. The typical Innovation Voucher is £2,500 which means eligible businesses can unlock a total business innovation fund of £5,000 to access external expertise with knowledge base organisations (research institutes).

Applications must be for future projects, which can be complete within a three month period on being approved. 

The EU funded initiative, managed by Aston University in partnership with Birmingham City University, was set up to help smaller businesses pay for new processes and systems that will improve efficiency and help bring new products to market.

The money can be spent on various activities, which can be found on our Eligibile activities section

Professor Nicholas Theodorakopoulos, Professor of Entrepreneurship Development and Associate Dean International at Aston Business School, alongside Director of the Innovation Vouchers project (pictured in the above video) said: “Aston has a long history of working with SMEs. Innovation Vouchers were launched to promote external knowledge sharing in business. The regional scheme will provide start-up, small or medium-sized enterprises with the opportunity to collaborate with external experts to gain new knowledge to help their business innovate, develop and grow.

After the success of the 2013 – 16, and 2016 – 19 Innovation Voucher programmes, Aston has – in partnership with Birmingham City University – received funding from the European Regional Developing Fund (ERDF) to work with SMEs in the Greater Birmingham and Solihull, Redditch, Bromsgrove, and the Wyre Forest.”

Businesses that meet the following criteria can apply:

 

  • Must have a registered or trading address in one of the target LEP areas; Birmingham, Solihull, Redditch, Bromsgrove, and Wyre Forest (based on Kidderminster);
  • Businesses in an eligible sector;
  • Have not received an Innovation Voucher in the current phase of the programme;
  • Have received less than Euros 200,000 de minimis state aid in the last three years;
  • Meet the European Union definition of a small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) i.e. employ less than 250 full-time staff (or equivalent), have an annual turnover of no more than 50 million euros and/or annual balance sheet no more than 43 million euros;
  • Able to contribute a minimum of £2,500 (ex. VAT) to match fund the grant (based on an Innovation Voucher of £2,500 allocated to a company that is VAT registered). Note – the project costs cannot include bank or legal fees associated with paying the supplier;
  • Meet the eligibility guidelines for use of the Innovation Voucher 

Suitable Business Types

  • Start-ups of all sizes, whether or not VAT registered
  • Self-employed & sole traders
  • Partnerships/limited liability partnerships
  • Companies (private or public limited companies; private unlimited companies)
  • Independent spin-outs from established businesses, universities and other research and development organisations;
  • Not for profit companies, co-operatives, community enterprises, social enterprises
  • Farm enterprises
  • New to the region branches of businesses which remain established elsewhere in the UK (i.e. expansions)
  • Foreign direct investment (FDI) bringing new enterprises to the region;
  • Time investment and subsequent expansions

Eligible Sectors

Companies from priority sectors (and those associated with these sectors) will be given priority access to the grants (see table below). To be eligible geographically, a company must be registered or have a trading address in one of the below districts. 

This list is complied using the Standard Industrial Classification of Economic Activities Code (SIC) which will be listed on your business’ Companies House page. 

Districts:

  • Birmingham
  • Solihull
  • Redditch
  • Bromsgrove
  • Wyre Forest (based upon Kidderminster)

Priority Sectors:

  • Advanced Manufacturing including Automotive and Aerospace
  • Low Carbon
  • ICT
  • Digital and Creative
  • Life Science
 

Eligible Sectors:

  • Section C: Manufacturing (except SIC codes 24100: Manufacture of Basic Iron and Steel of Fore Alloys & 24200: Manufacture of tubes, pipes, hollow profiles and related fittings of steel) 
  • Section F: Construction 
  • Section H: Transportation & Storage 
  • Section I: Accommodation & Food Service Activities 
  • Section J: Information & Communication 
  • Section M: Professional, Scientific & Technical Activities 
  • Section N: Administrative & Support Service Activities 
  • Section R: Arts, Entertainment & Recreation 
  • Section S: Other Service Activities 
  • Section T: Activities of Households as Employers; Undifferentiated Goods – and Services – Producing Activities of Households of Own Use 
  • Section U: Activities of Extraterritorial Organisations & Bodies 
We are unable to fund businesses in the following sectors 

 

This list is complied using the Standard Industrial Classification of Economic Activities Code (SIC) which will be listed on your business’s Companies House page.

If your SIC code is not in an eligible sector, the Innovation Vouchers programme cannot provide support for you.

  •  Section A: Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing 
  • Section B: Mining & Quarrying 
  • Section D: Electricity, Gas Steam & Air Conditioning Supply
  • Section E: Water Supply, Sewerage, Waste Management & Remediation Activities 
  • Section G: Wholesale & Retail Trade; Repair of Motor Vehicles & Motorcycles 
  • Section K: Financial & Insurance Activities 
  • Section L: Real Estate Activities 
  • Section O: Public Administration & Defence; Compulsory Social Security 
  • Section P: Education 
  • Section Q: Human Health & Social Work Activities  

General activities and processes:

New product/New Service Development/ New service delivery and customer interface

  • Opportunity Analysis to support your ideas in the Idea Screening Phase
  •  Idea Screening
  •  Concept development, prototyping and testing
  •  Development the marketing and engineering details
  • Identification & investigation of intellectual property, including the process for intellectual property creation, protection (but not patent maintenance fees to Intellectual Property Office or relevant official organisations)
  •  Feasibility through virtual computer aided rendering and rapid prototyping
  • Concept testing
  • Conducting focus group customer interviews
  • Commercialization (often considered post-NPD)
  •  Launch the product
  •  Critical path analysis
  • New Product Pricing
  • Impact of new product on the entire product portfolio
  •  Analysis of competition and alternative competitive technologies
  • Analysis of costs and selling price
  • Forecast of unit volumes, revenue, and profit
  •    Equipment purchases to develop prototypes
  •  Capital items to develop prototypes
  •   Software purchases to develop prototypes
  •   Beta Testing and Market Testing
  •  Producing a physical prototype or mock-up
  •  Testing the product (and its packaging) in typical usage situations
  •  Producing an initial run of the product
  •  Economic impact assessment
  •  Launch new products or services

 

Process improvement

  •   Opportunity Analysis to support your ideas in the Idea Screening Phase
  •  Idea Screening
  • Concept development
  •      Concept testing
  •   Critical path analysis
  •   Analysis of competition and alternative competitive technologies
  •   Analysis of costs and selling price
  • Forecast of unit volumes, revenue, and profit
  •  Efficiency audit, process change

 

Innovative business model development/Innovation Planning

  • Development of innovative business models/ strategy
  •  Engineering operations planning
  • Program review and monitoring
  • Contingencies – what-if planning
  • Innovation/technology audit

 

Quality Improvement

  • Finalising Quality Management System

 

Supply chain management and logistics

  • Department scheduling
  • Supplier collaboration
  • Logistics plan
  • Resource planning/publication
  •  Resource estimation

 

Exploiting advanced information technologies

  •  Consultancy towards IT Strategy and Value Optimisation
  • Building security algorithms & AI
  • Specialist electronic system, Software design and computer engineering tools
  • Designing of Specialist CRM systems that drive hardware
  • APP design & development for Mobile & portable devices (such as tablets, phones and PDAs)
  •  Development of GIS (Geographical Information Systems)
  • Analysis and Design of Algorithms
  • Electronic Communication and Concurrency
  • Compression Methods for Multimedia
  • Cryptography and Information Security
  • System Modelling
  • Distributed Systems and Applications
  • Software Measurement and Quality Assurance
  •  Informatics (including Bioinformatics) e.g. Software & hardware design of fingerprint or IRIS or Biometric Identification
  • Scanners etc. that can be controlled through web technologies

 

Market research

  •  Off the shelf market research reports
  • Customised market research done through professional consultants & market research companies
  • Overseas market entry research reports done by specialist Accredited organisations / trade & industry bodies in the UK & overseas
  • Conducting focus group customer interviews

 

 

Ineligible Activities

 

Marketing & Web Design

  • Website Design
  • Website Coding (exclusions apply)
  • Launch marketing for products not developed in-house
  • Traditional Marketing
    • Leaflets
    • Banners
    • Video production
    • Cold Calling 
    • Radio, TV, online adverts etc…
  • Google / Keyword Adwords
  •  Social Media Marketing
 


Travel Expenses / Subsistence

  •  Accommodation
  • Car parking
  • Company vehicles
  • Courier services
  • Flights
  • Food and drink
  • Mileage
  • Petrol, diesel or other fuel
  • Refreshments
  • Travel abroad
 



General Business Expenses

  • For use as working capital 
  • Capital items NOT for use in developing a physical prototype 
  • Installation of generic hardware/software
  • Telesales, Adverts / Marketing
  • Forwarding of post for a change of address as part of relocation
  • Ink/toner cartridges or printer ink
  • Internal employee wages/time
  • Monthly bills/annual charges (ie telephone, internet, utilities, servicing of equipment, etc)
  • Newspapers/journals
  • Printing of current promotional material
  • Postage of current promotional material
  • Service/maintenance charges on office equipment
  • Stock items
  • Subscriptions to magazines, etc
 
 
 

Property Expenses

  • Conversion of a building into offices for rental purposes
  • Building a new building or extension, etc
  • Demolition
  • External costs (ie landscape gardening, driveways, exterior furniture)
  • Planning permission/building regulation fees
  • Rent & rates for current or new premises
  • Rent deposit on new premises
  • Roofing
  • Service charges
  • Solar Panels
 
 
 

Professional Fees

  • Accountancy fees
  • Accreditation fees 
  • Bank or payments system fees (Inc. fees associated with paying your chosen supplier)
  • Coaching and mentoring
  • Consultancy fees relating to completing the Innovation Vouchers application form
  • Fees associated with registering a trademark
  • Legal fees (Unless as part of approved project activity)
  • Membership fees of professional organisations 
  • Recruitment
  • Training 
  • Writing of a generic business plan, generic marketing strategy, etc.
 
 
 

Non-Bespoke Software Development

  • Purchase of ‘off-the-shelf’ or white labelled software

Have you had any project ideas which would benefit your business, but you would like help with the costs? 

Innovation Vouchers can support your business in accessing external expertise to develop new products, new services, or new internal processes *

Here are some projects we have recently approved: 

  • Bespoke software development 
  • Bespoke hardware development 
  • App Development (note – must have an innovative element) 
  • Marketing for the launch of a new product (note – the grant cannot pay for general business marketing) 
  • Creation of a bespoke online platform or portal (note – must have an innovative element and not be traditional web design) 
  • Development of a bespoke CRM system for internal use 
  • Consultation to prepare a business for ISO accreditation (note – the grant cannot pay for the ISO accreditation itself) 
  • Consultancy to enter new markets 
  • Prototyping for a new, physical product 
  • An initial product run of a new product designed by an applicant 
  • Consultancy to develop new marketing processes 
  • Consultancy to develop energy efficiency within a business 
  • Consultancy to develop new routes to market 
  • Consultancy to refine the concept of a new product 
 
* You are advised to contact the Innovation Vouchers team ahead of making an application to confirm whether your project is eligible.
To apply for an Innovation Voucher 

 

  • Check the tabs to see whether your business and project idea is eligible
  • Send your complete Innovation Vouchers application form (download the form above) to innovation-vouchers@aston.ac.uk
  • Collect procurement (three quotations from different suppliers for the same work) and send these with your application form
  • Contact us for more information using our Contact Form