Kick-off for Collaboration – Event Success in Plymouth

Kick-off for Collaboration – Event Success in Plymouth

Many thanks indeed to those of you who joined us both physically at the University of Plymouth, and virtually online, for our inaugural SMECluster Network Event on the 15th September 2022.

Attendees from the Universities, Business Schools, RTOs and SMEs from across the UK joined together to discuss the current landscape for SME technology support and the role of each nation in supporting the National agenda.

Dr Ekaterina McKenna from NMIS represented the RTO position in Scotland and described a well-integrated business support network, linked closely with Government and Academic priorities.

Colm Higgins, Head of the Northern Ireland Technology Centre (NITC), which has been in operation for over 50 years, described the relationship between industry and government through initiatives such as the Belfast City Deal and their plans to merge the NITC into the all new Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre.

In Wales, Welsh Government’s Gregg Green reflected upon the huge success of the SMART Cymru programme and Business Wales support, driven by the Welsh Government’s Wellbeing for Future Generations Act; combining socio-economic outcomes with innovation and business objectives.

David Tricker – Innovate UK expressed UKRI’s strategy for growing and developing businesses in the UK, not just providing funding for projects.

“The future economy of the UK is likely to be a very different place when we take into account what is now important to us – NET Zero and greenhouse gas emissions, health and wellbeing technologies.”

David Tricker – Innovate UK

Advanced Materials & Manufacturing, AI & Digital, Advanced Computing, Bioinformatics & genomics, Engineering Biology, Energy, environmental & climate technologies, and Robotics & Smart Machines are the main focus for UKRI under the UK government guidelines.

The UK still has much to offer in Europe too. UKRI’s Craig Sharp described the current association with the European Commission as ‘not quite’ complete post Brexit, but soon to be formalised and reflected upon the enormous success of the last 7 year programme.

“During H2020, the UK received £7.41 billion EU contribution for collaborative innovation projects; 2,845 SMEs engaged with the programme with over 9,802 signed grants with a success rate of 14.75% – much higher than the average success rate across the rest of the EU.”

Craig Sharp – National Contact Point UKRI

With the next 7 year programme now underway (Horizon Europe), its more important than ever that we continue to engage in active collaboration projects with our European neighbours to ensure that UK technology development continues to align with the global market and UKRI has provided a fund specifically to support UK companies whilst the formal association takes place.

Following the presentations, the group discussed the many issues and challenges facing both UK SMEs and those organisations which are designed to support them in the current economic climate.

Gash Bhullar a Technology Developer, Industrial Entrepreneur and leader of the SMECluster Network said:

“Its clear that there are a number of hugely successful mechanisms across the UK for engaging with and supporting SMEs who are keen to adopt and exploit technology, but also apparent that there are many gaps in the current provision for those who are less easy to reach or, those who are positioned closer to the ‘coal face’ and cannot bring their challenges easily into the research domain.”

“Its up to us to form a Task Group as representatives of our local industries, RTOs and academic institutions and find a way to level the playing field to ensure that our national approach is consistent and accessible to all.”

“We look forward to moving this discussion forward and feel extremely empowered by the support from the group here today and we are very pleased with the contributions so far.”

The presentations and recording of the session will be made available shortly.

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