A £14.5 million initiative to help SMEs across Yorkshire and Humber succeed and thrive has been extended for a further two years.
SparkFund, the University of Hull-led grants programme, has been prolonged to give entrepreneurs and innovators time to bring their ideas to life, as they realise fresh opportunities and regain resource post-pandemic.
Since launching in May 2017, a total of 231 projects have been backed, with 145 new-to-firm Innovation delivered and 130 SMEs helped to enter new markets.
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A total of 170 new jobs have been attributed to SparkFund intervention, triggering an estimated increase in profitability of £10.4 million.
More than 2,500 hours of support have been provided, help with the development of 87 new products, while rooting out efficiencies worth £2.3 million. Another strand has seen 305 tonnes of carbon emissions wiped out.
Dr David Richards, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for research and enterprise at the University of Hull, said: “SparkFund is one of a number of innovation support programmes at the university to simplify innovation; providing invaluable academic and business support, access to funding streams and connecting them with the right partners to deliver their ambitions.”
The university has been recognised as a strong performer when it comes to sharing expertise to boost business and the economy.
Dr David Richards, pro-vice-chancellor for research and enterprise at the University of Hull.
(Image: University of Hull)
Many businesses know they need to invest in research and development, and they also know universities could be part of the answer, but the pathways to innovate and collaborate aren’t clear.
Hull-based WJ Fire Retardant Ltd developed an efficient and eco-friendly treatment to make timber fire resistant.
With SparkFund support the setup of their timber treatment facility was fast tracked – equipped with highly automated processes and the latest technology to deliver the absolute precision required.
Mark Eggleston, managing director at the Stoneferry company, said: “Launching a new product into a market is challenging at the best of times.
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“To have the SparkFund support us in the earlier stages of this project was a huge help and testament to vision of your project team that understood the opportunity we had identified and helped to navigate us through the application process.
“This fire-retardant project has been extremely capital intensive, banks are risk averse and were not interested in helping us fund it, so we are extremely grateful to SparkFund for sharing our vision.”
The eco-friendly element of their new to market product has provided the firm with a stand-out USP and elevated the firm’s market position.
It is now on track to generate an additional £750,000 in sales.
SparkFund was first launched after the University of Hull secured £8.4 million from the European Regional Development Fund.
It had originally been due to end as Covid hit in March 2020. It will now continue to deliver projects until June 2023.
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