Enterprise Ireland have issued a call to small limited companies, registered in Ireland, interested in developing links with Ireland’s publicly funded knowledge providers – Universities, Institutes of Technology, and publicly funded research bodies like Teagasc. SMES can explore a business opportunity or problem with the assistance of a public knowledge provider, and can fund research and developments through Innovation Vouchers.
The Innovation Voucher programme was developed in 2007 as a key recommendation of the Small Business Forum’s 2006 report. The programme affords companies the opportunity to avail of two types of vouchers; a fully funded voucher worth €5,000, or a Co-funded Fast Track voucher covering projects up to the value of €10,000. Co-funded vouchers can be applied for at any time, and require a 50-50 contribution from the company and Enterprise Ireland. These vouchers are then used to assist them with innovations such as: new product/process development, new business model development, delivering new customer interfaces or providing tailored training in innovation management.
The programme is open to SMEs, by Enterprise Ireland’s definition, from all sectors of the Irish economy including sectors of Food, Engineering, ICT & Software, Lifesciences, Education, Energy, Manufacturing, Construction. The only sectoral exclusions are enterprises in the agricultural sector.
Innovation Vouchers are exchanged for knowledge transfer projects from the higher education institutes and public research bodies that have been engaged. Enterprise Ireland define knowledge transfer projects as: ‘one that transfers knowledge of a scientific, technological or innovative nature that it is new to the small enterprise.’ Companies then use this knowledge to innovate a product, process or service.
According to an Enterprise Ireland representative, during each call the Government agency receive approximately 450 applications looking to avail of Innovation Vouchers; generally there are 3 open calls held annually. Currently there is no limit on the number of vouchers awarded to eligible SMEs. Part of the criteria for eligibility refers to whether or not the enterprise conforms to the Enterprise Ireland’s definition of an SME, whether or not the activity or solution can currently be delivered by a private sector business, or if potential solutions to the knowledge question already exist in the marketplace.
The main objective of the initiative is ‘to create a cultural shift in the small business sector’s approach to innovation’ and to utilise the resource of publicly funded knowledge providers.
Applications for the programme’s current call are being accepted up until Wednesday 26th September at 3pm. For more information on how to apply for Innovation Vouchers, and for a full list of participating knowledge providers, see http://www.innovationvouchers.ie