Welsh Government Smart Innovation Team- Finding Support

Key Links:

 

Introduction to the SMART programme:

Simon Ripton- Innovation Specialist at Welsh Government.

Innovation means change, people don’t like change. However, the world is dynamic and competitive so innovation is crucial.

Translating academic work into commercial processes and projects. Developing innovation and sharing risk.

Offering advice and guidance, access to risk funding, opportunities for collaboration and knowledge transfer.

Innovation Team:

  • Made up of industrial experienced professionals, R&D, IP expertise, knowledge networks.

Offerings:

  • Technical advice and guidance.
  • Professional support and mentoring.
  • Help with R&D funding and incentives (Horizon Europe etc).
  • Intellectual property advisory service.
  • Productivity and design health checks (Including circular economy).
  • Access and links to knowledge networks.
  • Signposting further support.

 

Innovation Action Plan:

  • Bespoke to every business.
  • Starts with an initial meeting to understand opportunities and challenges.
  • Explore the value of innovation and R&D.
  • Develop project map.
  • Identify and mitigate barriers to success.
  • Links to relative expertise and support.

 

Helping your business to:

  • Increase productivity and competitiveness.
  • Improve quality and efficiency.
  • Protect and exploit intellectual property.
  • Bring new products, processes and services to market and access new ones.
  • Build links with academia.

SMART Programme:

  • EU funded programme through ERDF.
  • Financial backing until 2023.
  • Network of specialists.
  • Local delivery with international resources.
  • Already benefitted hundreds of Welsh businesses.

 

SMART Cymru:

  • Financial support for R&D of new products, processes and services- and the job of taking them to market.
  • Innovation vouchers helping businesses access expertise and technology.
  • Sharing the risk- Doing more with less.
  • Develop lasting value into your company.
  • Very generous response.
  • Depends on company size and project risk. It is a non-competitive open call looking to support projects from £20,000- £40,000 but very flexible.
  • Innovation Vouchers offer specialist expertise, and to new equipment that offers new technological improvements. Generally small-scale projects of £10,000- £15,000.
  • Manufacturers can take advantage of the process innovation manager/ IV+ adding new processes. Up to about £200,000 which could include complete production lines.
  • Very popular- the full funding may be allocated by the end of 2021 and then will close to new applicants. Contact them soon.
  • If you have a project which you think is eligible then contact your local innovation specialist. Best way is to call them and be directed to the regional manager.

 

SMART Collaborations:

  • Extension to Smart Cymru.
  • Collaboration between companies and research and technology organisations (RTOs), between.
  • Just Between: 2 welsh companies.
  • Shared risk, reward and better outcomes.

 

SMART Expertise:

  • Industry led collaborations with leading Welsh research institutes.
  • Investigate industrial and commercial applications for emerging technologies.
  • Get competitive advantage from effective collaboration.
  • Has been so successful in West Wales that most funding there has been claimed- opportunity still in East Wales RTO.

 

SMART Partnerships:

  • Transfer and embed knowledge from a Welsh research organisation into your SME.
  • Increase capacity, capability and skill set.
  • Project based– is the project: stimulating, challenging, business driven and strategically relevant?
  • Symbiotic benefits to SME and research organisation.
  • 6 months to a Year.
  • Welsh government will contribute up to 50% of salary and supervision costs for that placement.
  • Great to bring in expertise from research organisations.
  • Knowledge Transfer Partnerships also available through SMART Partnerships.
  • Welsh Government will top up to 75% for KTP projects starting between now and July- probably need to have a project and be talking with your regional development manager by now.
  • Discuss with regional development manager soon.

 

Wales is facing challenges:

  • Decarbonisation, climate change, intellectual property and Industry 4.0.
  • Business Wales is committed to tackle them in accordance with Future Generations Act.

 

How can companies demonstrate a 30% contribution under a 70% funded feasibility project? Can you use in kind contributions or would it be demonstrated through paid salary for the project manager? Where the government covers 70% and the business covers 30%

(Information taken from the Quick Look Guide)

  • Would depend on the type of support. Industrial partners can match in kind.
  • More traditional SMART Cymru funding- including innovation vouchers or construct R&D funding through the duration of the project.
  • They would have to demonstrate match funding through the duration of the project. Demonstrate employees and look at payslips.
  • The process is: Apply for the grant. It gets appraised. Then get financial and technical due diligence. Grant application then approved. Then start project. Then make claim. The process can take a couple of months.
  • Grant funding takes time to come through- need to think of a project you want to do in 3-4 months- think ahead.
  • Buy equipment. Evidence the purchase. Then claim money back.
  • For R&D projects over 12 months- record evidence every quarter.
  • Evidence. Claim.
  • Cashflow very important.
  • Government’s do take time- if you’re looking to do project quickly this is not for you.
  • Rewards are great if you do it though due to the advantages of SMART connections, advice and service.
  • Talk through with regional manager to see what works best for you

 

Boost Your International Standing with the SMART Programme

Simon Wright, worked with SMART Cymru from initial idea to now. By end of the year will have 100 employees.

Initial Idea:

  • Transforming risk management from a liability to a competitive advantage. Wanted the world to have Instantaneous Corporate incident memory, retrieve incidents and lessons learnt in real time. Share knowledge in 1000s of ways.

 

Positives of SMART Programme:

  • Comprehensive support network around a business. Helping people who may not have connections and deep pockets. Relevant for start-up. SMART helped directly with money or found ways to help/ get it from somewhere else if they couldn’t directly fund it themselves.
  • SMART team challenged from outset- innovation voucher, intellectual property support through the SMART partnership.
  • Very structured. Great connections. Clear plan.
  • Was hard, at first, to find the sweet spot with academia because they can have different language, timescales and outputs to business. Went with it and the collaboration with university greatly improved the product.
  • Smart partnership- Product Build- Application.
  • SMART helped with lots of planning before you have to do it. It may seem pointless but the structure keeps a track on things and has been carefully thought out. Very tough but for good reason. Communication was key.
  • Helping with employment, investment, new offices, skill development. SMART Cymru has directly helped with success of the product.

 

Question and Answer Session:

  1. Q) When is the best point to get in contact with SMART Cymru? Before the project is started, as an idea, in the middle or when you’re taking proper action? And typically, how long is the process?
  2. A) As early as possible, even if you just have a loose idea. There are some eligibility criteria but we can help to guide you through the minefield that is developing an idea and looking into support.
  3. Q) How easily accessible are people? Is there a list of all the regional development managers?
  4. A) Phone the helpline and they can pass you onto help. Also, on the website. SMART managers find experts and are accessible. SMART offer a more personal experience than Innovate UK for example. Building approach from start-up works well.
  5. Q) I am based in N Wales. Distribution company. Would I be eligible if I am looking to innovate and ship in Europe?
  6. A) Yes eligible, we offer support to all businesses looking to be innovative in Wales. Can only fund within Wales so limitations if importing from Europe. Can definitely give general advice and guidance.

People on the team are geographically based, however, all have specific expertise that can be transferred to specific projects that require that skill.

  1. Q) What does commercialisation mean in the context of a smart grant, and does it not fund commercialisation?
  2. A) The aim is to create economic activity in Wales. We can’t develop ideas that you can’t make money out of as this won’t benefit anyone. Need to create employment and income. If an idea is technically brilliant but no market then it won’t bring benefits. Same with industrial process- if it doesn’t make industrial processes more efficient, we can’t invest. Aim for commercialisation with SMART is to improve products and services and develop new ones. R&D supports up to the commercialisation stage but there is a package to support further development after that.
  3. Q) The concern is how slow partnerships with universities are. They can be burdensome. How is this being addressed. Do we have to partner with institutions or can we just get on with it?
  4. A) No don’t have to partner with universities. Do encourage collaboration to understand technology landscape. Can still get support etc without the universities. Some universities have mechanisms that give them funding to work with businesses. SMART partnerships work, Knowledge Transfer Partnerships work and are effective. SMART Cymru can be used to fund collaboration between universities and businesses. Businesses can do consultancy through innovation vouchers but can be challenging for academics who have a lot on. Talk to the innovation manager who can put you in contact with the right person within the right uni and get a good scope of the project so the uni knows about the project early doors. Could just do some contracted research. We know it is not always easy- universities have different language, different outcomes. Welsh unis want to work with businesses and develop them through SMART Expertise. Already had 20 projects, and worked with 200 businesses. SMART helps to find common ground between university and business. Not administratively burdensome. They can support students. Companies have to be agile. Complimentary when you find the sweet spot.

 

  1. Q) Would this funding cover a software product or business. Gap in the market for it.
  2. A) Software is a strength in Wales. SMART covers all businesses.
  3. Q) Have developed a health care product for COVID. Can SAMRT Cymru help manufacturing the scale up and marketing of this product.
  4. A) Yes. Please get in contact. Will put in contact with a local innovation specialist. Can then have a conversation including TRL- where does it need help. Could identify manufacturing partners and supply chain.
  5. Q) Have developed an app for GP surgeries. Launched November. Good uptake. Clients want more functionality. Can you help?
  6. A) Yes. Please get in contact. Need to look into why you couldn’t develop that on a commercial basis and that you had looked into other funding opportunities.
  7. Q) Can funding be used to cover salaries or is it just capital costs?
  8. A) Lots of different funding support within the SMART sweet of support. SMART Cymru have funds for businesses- majority of funding is revenue funding only a small amount is capital. Capital innovation voucher- 50% funding up to £25,000 if a business wants to precure specialist equipment that will create a new product for that business. Most of R&D funding focuses on revenue funding. That does cover salary BUT only for staff and employees who are directly involved in the R&D process. Can be new jobs or jobs that are preserved and involved with the R&D funding. Then can provide grant funding for that. Level of funding depends on stage of R&D funding. And size of company.
  9. Q) I own the largest private chocolate facility in Wales. Can I be helped?
  10. A) Yes. Get in touch. Size doesn’t matter, we can help. Link to further support and key contacts.
  11. Q) I have made an application to WRAP Cymru to change the use of recycled plastics in a melding company. 4x more turner over and creating 10 jobs over the past 2 years. What help is there?
  12. A) We do signpost to each other (WRAP Cymru and SMART Cymru). Get in touch. We have extensive knowledge. Address challenges.
  13. Q) Based in N Wales. Decarbonisation project with a university in England. Benefits to N Wales but information from English uni. Can I still get funding?
  14. A) Providing there are benefits to Wales that is fine. Already working with English universities so that is fine. Potential for support through the Knowledge Transfer Partnership- associate within the business. SMART Cymru can support the business. Costs from uni can be included in the cost and the business can get a percentage of that back in terms of a grant. Can’t directly fund unis from outside of Wales. Can fund and part subsidise a business in Wales that wants to work with a uni outside of Wales.
  15. Q) What can you categorically not fund?
  16. A) Try not to say no! With R&D can be hard to support capital costs. Typically support revenue and depreciation of equipment. Focus on growth- 10 people or more. Do work with small start ups but there is a requirement for business growth- can link with entrepreneurial team. Make yourself investment ready, clear goals, robust business plan. Financial sustainable.

 

  1. Q) Do you actually help? Hold a hand from the start? Are you helping and is the service free?
  2. A) Can’t fill out the forms for you. Free advisory service and identify opportunities and funding. Beyond SmartCare and can help to navigate to HORIZON and INNOVATE UK. There to help best use of time. Professional and technical advice. Personal service and will stick with a business throughout all stages. Commercially confidential.
  3. Q) Has there been a difference in opinion between business and then the SMART people in the partnership?
  4. A) Innovation is a process. Need to follow their advice because the process has been there for a reason. Respect the innovation team. The team have been through the process a lot and therefore know what they are doing. Keep your enthusiasm. Trust the process.
  5. Q) Do you help creative industries?
  6. A) In theory yes, but practically haven’t done much. Get in contact. There is another arm of Welsh Government that will help. We look for technical challenges and how to solve them.

 

  1. Q) Has bought a 3D printer. Increased production. Buying an accessory will double output. Is there funding for accessories?
  2. A) Yes. Get in contact. Does need to be transformational. Not here just to make something bigger and faster. Want to develop new ideas and innovation. There is other funding out there. Capability rather than capacity. Want to support growth- if you aren’t looking to row hard to invest.

 

Key Info:

  • Innovation managers are there to promote best practice, to help and to mentor. Doing feasibility etc may not seem like a good use of time but it is. Saves time in the long run. May feel slow at the start but it is worth it in the long term. Once started properly gives confidence.
  • Use the resource. Will benefit Wales. They do really help. Get passionate, get involved. Talent is here just need to help.