Free money: £220,000-worth of 'Innovation Vouchers' available to innovative South East businesses

Here's the official blurb:

"Innovation Vouchers are designed to encourage and make it easier for businesses to buy in support in the form of access to the facilities and expertise of UK Universities and Public Research Establishments to support innovation and business improvement."

So, how do you apply? The vouchers are available through the South East Health Technology Alliance (SEHTA). There are 55 up for grabs, so competition will be intense. Each voucher is worth either £4,000 and £8,000 (depending on your business need) and are funded by the South East England Development Agency (SEEDA) as part of a wider initiative to support high growth companies in the South East region.

What's the catch?

'High growth-potential SMEs' need not apply. This seems like a strange rule? What does this mean? Also, social enterprises and not-for-profit organisations from any sector are out. There's a delightful turn of phrase in the press release to illuatrate this point: "Applications are not invited from..."

AMENDMENT: Applications are in fact invited from all of the above. Eyes had a vocabulary malfunction this morning. Thanks to @JasonHesse for the heads up.

The good news is that most business sectors are eligible, but priority will be given to organisations in these areas: advanced engineering, marine, aerospace and defence, environment and energy, and lastly, financial and professional services.

You can only apply if you've not applied for a SEHTA or SEEDA grant before, and you need to be willing to 'collaborate on developing innovative products, services or processes' - take advice on board and slap the SEHTA logo on your website, p'raps? I don't speak bureaucrat, alas.

The two vouchers available are:

•     A fully funded voucher, to the value of £4,000 (excluding VAT).

Businesses are responsible for paying the VAT.

•     The second voucher is for £8,000 (excluding VAT), with which the company is required to stump up £4,000 in cash to create a total project budget of £12,000 (excluding VAT).  Businesses must pay the VAT on the total cost of the project

Dr David Parry, CEO of SEHTA, says: "These vouchers can act as a very important catalyst for businesses demonstrating innovation and high growth potential in their specific sector. If successful with their application, they can easily get access to expertise and technical capabilities that would normally be beyond their reach, which also means they can develop and deliver products and services to market faster."

The Innovation Voucher scheme launched on the 1st of February, so get you applications in sharpish: the scheme closes on the 9th of March 2011.

Successful applicants will be notified by 31st March 2011.

To find out more, or apply for an Innovation Voucher visit www.sehta.co.uk

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