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Innovation Vouchers get £1.1m boost to help SMEs use open data

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Startup firms and SMEs are set to get a £1.1m innovation boost to help them develop new ideas, improve processes and target new markets.

This is due to a second wave of “Innovation Vouchers”, which are being made available through the Technology Strategy Board. The extra funding is for businesses who want to use public open data to commercialise their ideas, as well as develop products and prototypes.

The Innovation Vouchers scheme was launched in September 2012, providing £5,000 to businesses who wanted to develop ideas applicable to agri-food, built environment and space. As well as the additional funding for open data use, they are also being extended for businesses with innovation ideas in the areas of energy, water and waste.

Now, the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) committed £1m a year for the next three years for Innovation Vouchers. That sum will be matched by the Technology Strategy Board, meaning a total of £2m each year. An additional £1.1m is now available for open data over the next two years.

The Innovation Vouchers will be allocated every three months, with 100 Vouchers across the themes each quarter. They form part of the government’s Innovation and Research Strategy for Growth.

In particular, the vouchers are a means to help entrepreneurs access and use open data to aid the growth of their business.

Universities and science minister, David Willetts commented on the scheme: “This new wave of Innovation Vouchers will give SMEs a great opportunity to bid for funding that can make a real difference to the growth of their business ideas. They will be able to develop exciting proposals that can make use of open data, which have the potential to unlock great value and boost economic growth.

“There is also real strength across the UK knowledge base in the areas of Energy, Water and Waste. The expansion of Innovation Vouchers in these areas will provide an added boost for businesses looking for suppliers of knowledge who can help explore and develop their innovations.”

Businesses will be able to apply for the Innovation Vouchers directly through the Technology Strategy Board and the Open Data Institute (ODI). 

According to the BIS, they could be particularly useful for:

  • A small business looking to grow services and solutions using open data;
  • A new business looking to develop an idea into a working prototype;
  • Specialist consultancy on the integration of open data with other data sources to develop products and prototypes; and
  • Intellectual Property advice in respect of ideas incorporating open data.

The additional funding for open data vouchers comes after BIS announced this week new measures to open up access to public data; including a new £7.5m Data Strategy Board Breakthrough Fund and a new £850,000 open data Immersion Programme which will assist public organisations and companies to opening up new opportunities for data.

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