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Boosting innovation across Yorkshire

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As an adopted Yorkshireman and resident of York for over 20 years, Leeds and the surrounding region has become a very special place for me. As one of the first cohorts of Innovate UK regional managers appointed in 2016, I have established an office in Leeds City Centre, hosted by Leeds Business Chambers and alongside our local Enterprise Europe Network (EEN) team. With excellent transport links up and down the East Coast and across the Pennines, this office acts as a modest ‘hub’ to our regional activities covering Yorkshire, Humber and up to the North-East.

A free, one day workshop in Leeds City region

I am very excited about the upcoming SME workshop we are running with Leeds City Region LEP in Wakefield on the 18th October but enough of that later.

A map showing business and universities that have received Innovate UK support across Leeds City region
Mapping business and university Innovate UK support in Leeds City region

A hotbed of innovation

It’s not just the excellent transport connectivity that makes the region appeal. Leeds City Region is a hotbed of innovation. To date we have invested over £90m grant support in over 400 businesses and Universities from Leeds to Wakefield, Bradford to Huddersfield and out to York. The focus of these activities is broad but best summarised in the regions strategic economic plan:

  • Creative & digital
  • Low carbon & environmental industries
  • Food and drink
  • Health and bioscience
  • Advanced manufacturing and engineering

Strong bioscience cluster

The region has a strong bioscience cluster. Digital health is an emerging focus for the region, resulting from convergent technologies and the ‘spinning-out’ of new enterprises from a well-established med-tech community, highlighted in a recent Science and Innovation Audit. The audit describes how this 250-strong business community specialising in medical technologies is clustered with over 200 digital businesses operating in the health and social care space.

This supply chain is in-turn linked to a strong underpinning science base, has unique access to distinctive patient population cohorts and connects to 13 clinical commissioning groups and 12 NHS trusts. A ripe ecosystem for innovation.

A multicoloured map showing part of Leeds City region.

Turbo-charged engineering, into space and beyond

I have been particularly impressed by the quality of engineering taking place across the region.

Whilst the region cannot boast hosting a global OEM as a flagship employer as observed in other parts of the North, the area is home to important Tier 1 and 2 engineering firms selling into many high-end supply-chains.

Highlights of those companies Innovate UK has supported that I have met with recently include Borg-Warner in Bradford, which manufactures turbos for the global automotive industry. Within the SME community, Reliance Precision manufactures custom-built gears in Huddersfield and is taking forward exciting developments for many different sectors, whilst ‘down the road’ in Shipley, Slipstream Engineering Design Ltd is a Digital and Microwave RF design company providing engineering services to the Communication, Aerospace and Security industries.

The importance of partnership

However, despite these strengths, it has been estimated that the Leeds City Region currently attracts only 57% of the UK average investment per employee from Innovate UK. To tackle this and raise the regions innovation ambitions, we have therefore partnered with the Leeds City Region Local Enterprise partnership (West Yorkshire Combined Authority) to better support the region’s SMEs compete more effectively for this national funding.

The business-focused measures the LEP and Innovate UK will now work together on include:

  • Making it easier for businesses across the Leeds City Region to get help with innovation thanks to a joined-up, accessible programme of support provided by both the LEP and Innovate UK
  • Making it simpler for local businesses to access funding from the LEP and Innovate UK
  • Taking an increasingly proactive and targeted approach to identifying, supporting and inspiring SMEs to innovate.

2 Leeds LEP and 1 Innovate UK representatives. Banners in the background for 'unlocking the potential' and foreground partnership agreement with Leeds City Region and Innovate UK on an easel.

This approach has been embedded in an MOU signed in June by our Deputy CEO, Kevin Baughan (right) alongside Councillor Tim Swift (deputy chairman of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority - centre) and Andrew Wright, chairman of the LEP Business, Innovation and Growth (BIG) Panel (left).

…..and so what next?

A free, one day workshop and masterclass for business in Leeds City region

Innovate UK has come together with the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) to offer a free one day ‘masterclass’ for the Yorkshire business community and organisations that support business innovation. It will help delegates learn more about what support is out there and to find out how to ‘turbo-charge’ their businesses through innovation.

The event programme will give information about both national opportunities and support and an introduction to what is available locally.

The aims of the event are to help participants:

  • Understand where to go for innovation funding
  • Know who to approach for support in accessing funding
  • Connect with potential collaborators and research partners
  • Understand what is required in writing a successful grant application

Where and when?

This workshop will take place at Unity Works, Westgate, Wakefield, WF1 1EP on Wednesday 18th October 2017.

Register here

Businesses can register for this free to attend workshop here.

With two weeks left to register, we hope to see you there.


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