Issue date: 23 November 2010
The University of the West of England will lead three out of five iNets granted to the South West region. An investment of £13 million including European Regional Development Funds (ERDF) will create opportunities for businesses and researchers in the South West to develop networks to support job creation and product development. The iNets will run for three years from 2010 – 2013.
iNets are innovation networks that bring together academic researchers with regional industry, businesses and public sector organisations to spark innovation and create spin outs, start ups, knowledge transfer partnerships and collaborative projects that share a common aim to bring about economic growth in the South West region. iNets are part of a wider government support for business called Solutions for Business.
UWE will lead the iNets in Biomedicine (led by Professor Richard Luxton), Microelectronics (led by Dr Janice Kiely) and the Environment (led by Professor Jim Longhurst). There are also iNets in Advanced Engineering & Aerospace that will be led by the West of England Aerospace Forum, and the Creative Industries sector that will be led by South West Screen. UWE is also involved in the Advanced Engineering and Aerospace iNet.
Nigel Howells, Head of Competitiveness for the European programme said, “ERDF is supporting the roll-out of the innovative iNet programme to encourage and help develop businesses across the region. The aim of the project is to promote knowledge transfer and business start-up between the university and businesses, making the South West prosper from a combination of ideas and skills.”
Professor Richard Luxton from UWE's Institute of BioSensing Technology who developed and is leading the Bio-medical iNet, said, “UWE is delighted to have been selected as custodian of this exciting opportunity to develop a range of networks. It is important to stress that the £7.5 million managed by UWE will be distributed to support iNets – the University will lead the development of the networks and funding will enable the networks to realise a range of ambitions. The iNets will help small businesses and universities to develop products and services by linking together industry experts, universities, business incubation centres and knowledge transfer partnerships. The funding will enable a more joined up approach as groups and partners come together.
“In the South West we have a wealth of industrial organisations and specialist service providers, a diverse range of public sector research establishments and six Higher Education Institutes with a Biomedical focus, 31 National Health Service Trusts and 32 Primary Health Care Trusts. That is a lot of people and organisations who can be brought together to develop areas of mutual interest to further projects and create jobs in the region. The output resulting from the innovation networks will also, we believe, help to establish projects that have national and international impact.
“The key ambitions relating to the Biomedical iNet are to accelerate the rate at which innovation is identified for commercialisation, to translate innovation from research to the commercial sector and to internationalise commercialised innovation.”
The Microelectronics iNet developed by Dr Janice Kiely aims to strengthen the region's performance with respect to innovation, both nationally and internationally, by supporting over 400 companies across the South West in Microelectronics, Photonics and Digital Communications subsectors; the associated system integrators and the upstream and downstream supply chain. Key themes for activities will include medical technology, low power, intelligent transport systems and 'smart energy'. The iNet co-ordinating team will work with existing networks and organisations, assist UWE and other HEIs in the region to maximise their economic contribution from research/ development activities. It is a significant opportunity for UWE academics to collaborate with regional companies in particular to pump prime research and development projects. Outputs will include new research/development collaborations, new patents, new jobs and new spin out companies. The Microelectronics iNet will be the key integrator across the complete iNet project as microelectronics is a common element across all the iNet sectors.
In the South West, the Low Carbon Environmental Goods and Services sector is worth £8bn per year and employs approximately 75,000 people. The South West region was designated the first Low Carbon Economic Area and accounts for 68% of the UK sector. The Environmental Technologies iNet aims to assist environmental goods and services businesses to innovate their products and services faster, improve their competitiveness and market awareness, and engage with a range of routes to market. The project will target high growth potential environmental technology and services SMEs and provide them each with a customised programme of business assistance focusing on the areas of renewable energy, waste management, sustainable transport and sustainable construction. The iNet will create a focal point for the sector, directly supporting businesses, facilitating the linkages between ideas, technology, expertise and commercialisation, and improving international connectivity.
The Environmental iNet is led by Professor Jim Longhurst. David Brennand and David Lennard in UWE's Research, Business and Innovation team, who secured the Environmental iNet in partnership with consortium members, have also developed and implemented an important cross iNet support structure to ensure the smooth delivery of all iNets managed by UWE.
Professor Steve West, UWE Vice-Chancellor concludes, “This bid is one of the biggest that UWE has won and puts the University firmly on the regional map as an organisation recognised as being good at galvanising energy through partnership working. We will strive to ensure that the trust placed in us by ERDF will be rewarded by a blossoming of ideas, products, services and businesses that serve the region well and inspire growth through synergy and innovation.”