£4.7m funding pot for businesses to work with researchers on the latest innovations

the University of Essex Picture: ARCHANT

the University of Essex Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

Businesses can harness the latest breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, biotechnology and digital creativity, thanks to a new partnership between seven universities and colleges across the East of England.

The EIRA project – meaning Enabling Innovation: Research to Application – was awarded £4.7m from Research England’s Connecting Capability Fund and is now open for applications from businesses looking to innovate by working with academics.

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The aim of EIRA is to support the national Industrial Strategy by driving growth and increasing productivity in the East of England, by transforming the way businesses connect with universities and colleges.

The EIRA network is led by the University of Essex, working with the University of East Anglia and the University of Kent, fellow members of the Eastern Academic Research Consortium (Eastern ARC) which was established to encourage research collaboration and training.

The other EIRA network members include the University of Suffolk in Ipswich, and Writtle University College in Chelmsford.

Artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and digital creative are the key focus for EIRA, with the network allowing businesses to access both expertise and specialist facilities.

Stefanie Thorne, Head of Business Engagement and Entrepreneurship at the University of Suffolk, claims the funding provides “huge opportunities” for businesses within the three sectors. “The University of Suffolk is well placed to deliver projects that meet the needs of business and boost productivity through innovation,” she added.

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EIRA Director Kirstie Cochrane believes that artificial intelligence is “transforming all sectors of our economy”, and biotechnology is “having an impact on everything from food production to medicine”.

“The East of England is recognised as a centre of excellence in the digital creative sector,” she said.

“EIRA is aiming to support the development of businesses in the East of England, which are taking full advantage of the opportunities offered by these fast moving sections of our economy.”

With a range of majority-funded grants available, EIRA will help businesses of all sizes develop new products, services, and solutions.

Support includes innovation vouchers to fund access to academic expertise, and research and development grants. More opportunities are in development, with innovation internships and start-up microfinance.

Partners from industry and regional membership organisations include BT, TechEast and New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (NALEP).

Businesses and academics interested in accessing EIRA funding can find out more at www.eira.ac.uk.