University of Hull’s £14.5m SparkFund programme extended to boost region’s business innovation

13th Aug

The University of Hull’s £14.5m SparkFund has extended its grants programme to help more SMEs across Yorkshire and the Humber succeed and thrive. 

Despite the challenges presented over the past 18 months, SparkFund’s success story continues with more grants and additional time available to support small and medium-sized businesses in the Humber, North Yorkshire and York areas. 

Now running until June 2023, the extension comes as SMEs across the region require further flexibility and time to bring their ideas to life, as they realise fresh opportunities and regain resource post-Covid-19.  

Delivered by the University of Hull, SparkFund has transformed businesses across the region with more than 2,500 hours of support; helping firms cut costs by £2.3 million, develop 87 new products and reduce carbon emissions by 305 tonnes. 

A timely boost to the local economy 

SparkFund has worked with SMEs to bring 231 projects to life with a funded value of £4.1 million, representing a significant boost to the region’s economy. 

Since launching in May 2017, the scheme has delivered an impressive 145 new-to-firm innovations, helped 130 SMEs enter new markets, created 170 new jobs and supported an estimated increase in profitability of £10.4 million.   

The University of Hull has been recognised as a strong performer when it comes to sharing expertise to boost business and the economy. 

Many businesses know they need to invest in R&D, and they also know Universities could be part of answer, but the pathways to innovate and collaborate aren’t clear. 

Dr David Richards, pro-vice-chancellor (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.” 

Igniting growth through Innovation, R&D and collaboration

WJ Fire Retardant developed an efficient and eco-friendly treatment to make timber fire-resistant. 

With SparkFund support, the setup of its 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 WJ Group, said: “Launching a new product into a market is challenging at the best of times.  

“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.”  

SparkFund was first launched after the University of Hull secured £8.4 million from the European Regional Development Fund.  

Originally due to end in March 2020, SparkFund will now continue to deliver projects until June 2023. 

BusinessWorks Hull & East Yorkshire Autumn 2021

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