Public Release: 

Innovation Voucher winners announced

Economic & Social Research Council

Forty SMEs are today being announced as the first winners of a groundbreaking voucher scheme which aims to create a positive link between SMEs and the Universities in the West Midlands region.

The £240k pilot of the INDEX - INnovaton Delivers EXpansion - project offers 40 companies with between 1 and 250 employees the opportunity to receive an innovation voucher, worth £3000 which they are able to spend with any of 13 different Higher Education establishments across the region. Funded by the Regional Development Agency, Advantage West Midlands (AWM), the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the voucher will allow businesses to gain access to appropriate academic resources at one of the participating organisations who will work with them to generate real innovation for a particular project or situation.

Similar voucher innovation schemes are already running successfully in the Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland. The Netherlands scheme is a Government funded scheme that has given 1100 Innovation Vouchers to SMEs over 3 years. Of those 800 SMEs have continued working with the research institution of their choice. In Ireland, through another a Government scheme launched this year, they have funded 200 vouchers in the first round and have just closed their second round of vouchers.

Brokered by Aston University the need for the INDEX scheme within the UK was highlighted by a study in 2003 which highlighted the opportunities and barriers for SMEs working with universities.

Professor Julia King, Vice Chancellor of Aston University comments, "We believe that the innovation voucher scheme will serve, in part, to address the issues that SMEs raised about universities. It will enable innovation across the SME community through this method of knowledge transfer and it will aim to sustain these relationships and benefit both the regional and national economy."

The next round of vouchers is planned to be advertised in April 2008.



ESRC Press Office:

Alexandra Saxon (Tel: 01793 413032, email:
Danielle Moore (Tel: 01793 413122, email:


1.Participating universities include; University of Warwick, Keele University, Coventry University, Harper Adams University College, University of Worcester, Open University, University of Wolverhampton, UCE Birmingham, Newman College of Higher Education, Staffordshire University, University of Birmingham, College of Food, Tourism and Creative Studies and Aston University.

2.The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is the UK's largest funding agency for research and postgraduate training relating to social and economic issues. It supports independent, high quality research relevant to business, the public sector and voluntary organisations. The ESRC's planned total expenditure in 2007- 08 is £181 million. At any one time the ESRC supports over 4,000 researchers and postgraduate students in academic institutions and research policy institutes. More at

3.ESRC Society Today offers free access to a broad range of social science research and presents it in a way that makes it easy to navigate and saves users valuable time. As well as bringing together all ESRC-funded research (formerly accessible via the Regard website) and key online resources such as the Social Science Information Gateway and the UK Data Archive, non-ESRC resources are included, for example the Office for National Statistics. The portal provides access to early findings and research summaries, as well as full texts and original datasets through integrated search facilities. More at

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.