£5.7 million growth opportunity for Cumbria businesses announced

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Businesses across Cumbria are set to benefit from a growth-boosting £5.7 million research and development support package.

Lancaster University and the University of Cumbria are launching the second phase of the Cumbria Innovations Platform (CUSP), which will deliver technical and management expertise to the county’s small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), helping to commercialise new products and services.

The first phase of CUSP, which was part-funded by the European Regional Development Agency (ERDF) and ran between 2017 and 2020, assisted almost 140 Cumbria enterprises.

It generated 63 collaborative research projects, and saw companies develop 41 new products. CUSP was also selected and showcased as an exemplar project by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government.

One Cumbria business to benefit from CUSP’s first phase was Agronomy Research Group Ltd. By engaging with the support offered through CUSP they have been able to develop a new mobile app to help expand their grounds-keeping consultancy work. The app enables the remote identification of grass species on land such as golf course greens – removing the need for frequent costly and time-consuming in-person visits.

Neil Baldwin, Director of Agronomy Research Group Ltd, said: “The programme was ideal for us as it enabled a product concept to be turned into reality. Without this support our company had the concept but not the expertise to develop the idea into a usable system to facilitate the growth and expansion of our business.

“I cannot speak highly enough about the enthusiasm and technical know-how Lancaster University provided and would thoroughly recommend them to any local SME's looking to expand their business through innovative product development.”

CUSP II, also part-funded by the ERDF, creates a ‘research and innovation gateway’, enabling businesses to access a unique and diverse range of expertise available from the two Universities. The programme offers a range of services designed to help businesses at any stage in the product development cycle and includes: Innovation Masterclasses and events and innovation research projects, a peer-to peer Innovation Catalyst network, digital product development and access to science and technology facilities.

The multi-disciplinary cross-institutional team are already starting to work with Cumbrian businesses and are keen to engage with businesses from any ERDF eligible sector.

James Livsey, Cumbria Innovations Platform II Project Manager at Lancaster University, said: “Combining our skills at Lancaster University with the University of Cumbria provides a unique offering to help businesses across the county research and develop the products and services that will raise their productivity and competitiveness in this difficult and uncertain economic climate.”

Sarah Allison, Project Manager at University of Cumbria said: “The Cumbria Innovations Platform helps unlock the growth potential of enterprises across all sectors of the county’s economy. The programme helps businesses think about the different elements of the innovation cycle, and gain support to develop ideas into innovations. Whatever stage in the innovation cycle your businesses is at, we can help you tap into the expertise and resources of two universities to create new products and services, facilitating business growth for the region.”

Jo Lappin, Chief Executive of Cumbria LEP said: “The response of our businesses to the economic impact of the pandemic has demonstrated the tremendous creativity and ingenuity that exists here in Cumbria. Our businesses are increasingly looking to the future and developing new products and services to grow their businesses. The new support provided by the second phase of the Cumbria Innovations Platform (CUSPII) is therefore extremely welcome and timely, providing the necessary expert technical and management expertise to our businesses to help them commercialise their products.”

The University of Cumbria offers a complimentary programme of Innovation Masterclasses and Events exploring different elements of the innovation cycle, including innovation infrastructure, ideas generation, concept development, product development, commercialisation, and funding, IP and barriers. SMEs can attend all masterclasses or pick those that are of interest.

There will also be additional innovation research opportunities with University of Cumbria students through internships and masters research projects, which provide businesses with detailed and robust research to support new product or service development.

Lancaster University brings together wide-ranging expertise from its Management School and Faculty of Science and Technology. A new ‘Innovation Catalyst’ programme will help senior decision makers tackle the challenges facing their region, sector and wider economy. The programme will create a supportive environment where business leaders can generate new ideas, explore and test opportunities, challenge each other, and learn the tools and knowledge needed to accelerate innovative business ideas.

For businesses wanting to test or develop ideas for a new product or service, the project provides access to a range of cutting-edge science and technology equipment worth more than £45 million, and bespoke consultancy to help each business progress their ideas.

These include Lancaster’s £11.4 million cTAP (Collaborative Technology Access Programme) building, facilities and expertise. Facilities include magnetic resonance, mass spectroscopy, x-ray, microscopy and nanofabrication for characterisation and analysis of materials.

Lancaster’s Engineering Department has design, build and testing capabilities, in addition, the Department of Physics can support design, synthesis and characterisation of materials for use in new products.

A software development team from Lancaster’s School of Computing and Communications will also be able to examine opportunities to grow businesses through digital products and services.

A virtual VIP CUSP II Launch Event will take place between 9.15 am and 12.30pm on Thursday, May 27. People can sign up for the event by visiting https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/cumbria-innovations-platform-cusp-ii-vip-launch-registration-154211373369?aff=erelexpmlt

Interested businesses can find out more about the programme by calling CUSP Project Manager James Livsey +44 (0)1524 510332, emailing p.livsey@lancaster.ac.uk or by visiting www.cumbriainnovations.org

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