An Oldham-based manufacturer is developing the next generation of protective headwear with support from a scheme that is designed to bolster business innovation by encouraging academic partnerships and new research and development (R&D) activities.
Future Safety applied for GC Business Growth Hub’s Innovation Vouchers last year to support the development of new safety helmet designs, which use modern manufacturing techniques and sophisticated new materials.
Their participation in the scheme has since allowed the business of 14 staff to create two new positions and is bolstering their efforts to supply key workers including fire and rescue services, and paramedics, with the latest innovative safety products.
Colin Holmes, MD of Future Safety, said: “Our business has been going strong for a few decades but until quite recently, we’d never really considered or had the knowhow, to join forces with a local university.
“The innovation vouchers scheme has been hugely important for our next phase of development, bringing access to a team of academics and professors at Manchester Metropolitan University. They’ve helped Future Safety to ensure that our product development is truly evidence-based and aligned with the latest studies into areas such as traumatic brain injury and materials performance design.
“It’s been a hugely valuable exercise, opening doors and enhancing our network which I’m proud to say now includes academic experts with a real understanding of the various challenges we face in our industry, and most importantly, of the environments in which our safety products are required.”
Innovation Vouchers enable small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Greater Manchester to apply for up to £5,000 funding to access expertise, research and specialist facilities to accelerate the development of innovative products and services. The service is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund.
The vouchers are available for established SMEs in the city-region, subject to eligibility and suitability criteria. They provide an opportunity to develop a new, long term and sustainable partnership with a university or a recognised research organisation (typically not for profit).
Successful applicants must match the value of their Innovation Vouchers. with a £1 contribution for every £1 voucher received. For example, businesses applying for the maximum voucher of £5,000 will be required to contribute £5,000 (and the full VAT cost). The minimum contribution from businesses is £3,000.
The kind of activities the vouchers can be used to fund include; access to facilities and equipment; product design; research and development; knowledge transfer; and consultancy.
Yvonne Grady, Innovation Lead at GC Business Growth Hub, said: “Enabling innovation is extremely important for business resilience and success, but many SME business owners struggle with knowing where to begin in terms of accessing external expertise.
“The Innovation Vouchers project helps to accelerate this process, as well as the various routes to market, by forging strong links with the world of academia and research. We’re pleased to see the success of this scheme is already showing in companies like Future Safety. The next round is now open for applications and we would urge business owners to consider entering and to speak with our team expert advisors about the support that is available.”
GC Business Growth Hub’s Innovation Vouchers scheme makes access to expertise, funding and knowledge simple, and helps SME businesses to identify and progress innovative opportunities from concept to implementation.
The scheme is open to any SME business based in Greater Manchester that meets the full criteria and has potential for growth innovation opportunities that are new to the organisation or marketplace.