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£5,000 “innovation vouchers” up for grabs for all SMEs

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Entrepreneurs may claim up to £5,000 in innovation vouchers to pay towards the cost of expert advice if they are running an SME or starting up a new business.

“The funding encourages you to seek out fresh knowledge that can help your business to grow and develop,” says InnovateUK, who runs the government’s innovation voucher programme.

“That could include advice on an innovative idea, learning more about using design within your business or how you should make the most of intellectual property.”

The first round of applications for Innovation vouchers under the new rules opens on November 10.

Previously, innovation vouchers had only been available to those working in specific technology areas. Under the new guidance, issued by the InnovateUK (which is part of the Technology Strategy Board), entrepreneurs may now apply if they meet these tests:

  1. You need specialist help to meet a business challenge
  2. It’s the first time you have worked with the knowledge supplier

One entrepreneur that has used an innovation voucher to grow his business is Rob Phillips, MD of Accutronics.

The company used an innovation voucher to pay for a consultant to draw up concepts for a more robust battery casing for defence and security markets.

“Every little helps when you are a small business with a hard pressed engineering team,” says Phillips. “It enabled fresh ideas to come in from outside without distracting us from the core money-making business.”

It seems to have worked well for Accutronics. Five years on, the company is a fast-growing business that exports its custom-made rechargeable batteries to 30 countries around the world.

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