Connecting businesses with research power through new £4.7m funding pot

Businesses in the south east will be able to harness the power of the latest breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, biotechnology and digital creativity thanks to a new partnership between seven universities and colleges including the University.

The EIRA project (Enabling Innovation: Research to Application) was awarded £4.7m from Research England’s Connecting Capability Fund and is now open for applications from businesses looking to innovate by working with academics.

The aim of EIRA is to support the national Industrial Strategy by driving growth and increasing productivity in the East of England by transforming the way businesses connect with universities and colleges.

The EIRA network is led by the University of Essex working with the University of Kent and the University of East Anglia, fellow members of the Eastern Academic Research Consortium (Eastern ARC), which was established to encourage research collaboration and training.  Kent leads collaboration on Digital Humanities for Eastern ARC.

Professor Philippe De Wilde, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research & Innovation at Kent, said: ‘Strong university partnerships focus on research as well as innovation. The Connecting Capability Fund has given us the opportunity to bring the best of innovation support together. Artificial intelligence, biotechnology and digital creative are particularly well suited to businesses in the Eastern ARC geographic area. Integrated economies are stronger economies.’

The other EIRA network members are Harlow College, Norwich University of the Arts, the University of Suffolk and Writtle University College.

EIRA Director Kirstie Cochrane said: ‘Artificial intelligence is transforming all sectors of our economy, biotechnology is having an impact on everything from food production to medicine and the East of England is recognised as a centre of excellence in the digital creative sector.’

With a range of majority-funded grants available, EIRA will help businesses of all sizes develop new products, services, and solutions. The project supports businesses operating in, or seeking solutions from, the three key areas. Support includes Innovation Vouchers to fund access to academic expertise and Research and Development Grants. More opportunities are in development, with Innovation Internships and start-up microfinance.

Partners from industry, regional membership organisations, and local enterprise partnerships strengthen EIRA’s offering. They include BT, TechEast, Agri-Tech East, Digital Catapult, South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP), and New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (NALEP).

Businesses and academics interested in accessing EIRA funding for innovative projects can find out more by contacting the Kent Team at 

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