To support SMEs to develop and test new products, services and digital technologies. Tackling inertia and funding real innovation.
Coventry & Warwickshire is England’s fastest growing local economy since the 2008/09 recession, but a challenge facing the local economy is that just 14.7% of Coventry & Warwickshire businesses are defined as fast growing, compared to 16% nationally. Although a historically innovative area, 94% of R&D expenditure is focused in 0.05% of the area’s business base (essentially Original Equipment Manufacturers). To continue the area’s strong economic performance, there is a need for greater diffusion of innovation in the local business base.
The partnership is co-ordinated by Coventry City Council and includes Coventry University Enterprises and Warwickshire County Council; it developed integrated financial and non-financial support. These include:
• Workshops on specific innovation themes.
• Specialist 1:1 support addressing barriers to innovation.
• Usability studies to test new products on potential customers.
• Capital and revenue innovation grants to support product and technology development.
• Wraparound support to signpost SMEs to other specialist innovation support.
The target beneficiaries are Coventry & Warwickshire SMEs. A range of methods are used to engage SMEs, including existing relationships the Delivery Partners have with the businesses, referrals from Coventry & Warwickshire Growth Hub (who co-ordinate public business support) and other innovation support schemes, and direct marketing through e-newsletters and websites of local business support bodies.

Resources needed

Resources are split across three Delivery Partners. Total Value is €8.7m including revenue and capital grants to SMEs (€4m from ERDF, plus funds from Local Authorities and Universities with match funding from SMEs for grants). 8 FTE staff across the 3 organisations manage and deliver the support.

Evidence of success

Innovation Grants for Digital Products
28 SMEs awarded grants are demonstrating good progress with product development. towards new product launches.
Partnership working
There is a strong collaborative working relationship between partners. Meetings of the partners share challenges and identify solutions.
Project Delivery
We achieved 47 business assists (target 25). Advisors attending networking events and generating relationships with other support providers is attracting referrals.

Difficulties encountered

Key lessons from Phase 1 (2016-2018)
From SME feedback, intervention rate for revenue grants increased to 50%. Demand increased and grants claimed sooner.
Stronger clauses around deadlines and milestones with better tracking to ensure timescales are met.
Stronger programme governance

Potential for learning or transfer

Most elements of this practice are transferrable:
Sector flexibility
Supporting SMEs across variety of sectors, facilitates a range of innovation opportunities and use of digital/online technologies. Offering both capital and revenue grants is crucial in supporting product development. Of 28 awards, 7 SMEs are developing new digital products, e-platforms or mobile applications.
Partnership working
Partnership working between 2 Local Authorities and a University is very effective. Collaboration with all agencies is vital.
A Focus Innovation Group meets where representatives from various Innovation projects across the region provide update on their activity and cross-referral opportunities. It is attended by Local Authorities, Universities, Technology Centres and Innovate UK.
Range of delivery mechanisms
A combination of financial and non-financial support, events, seminars and workshops has been utilised. Workshops on digitalisation are highly attended

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Main institution
Coventry University Enterprises Ltd
West Midlands, United Kingdom
Start Date
January 2019
End Date


Tess Lukehurst Please login to contact the author.