Access to Innovation Ecosystem

Access to Innovation Ecosystem

An innovative idea needs assets and knowledge to get it to market.

We can connect you with research expertise and specialist equipment from five universities – Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria, Sunderland and Teesside – to help you access knowledge and facilities which will support you quickly through the product development process.

In Durham, we also have four national centres in Healthcare PhotonicsFormulation, Graphene Applications and Printable Electronics which contain a wealth of equipment and expertise to help you prototype and scale up your product without the need for large capital investment before you know it works.

These centres take the risk out of the product development process by working with SMEs and large companies to help them develop new concepts to market. All of them are managed by CPI, the UK’s national technology and innovation centre to serve and support the process manufacturing industries.

CPI is also part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, the catalyst for the future growth and success of manufacturing in the UK.

Did you know? NETPark is the only science park in the UK to have two Catapult Centres. The other is the North East Satellite Applications Centre of Excellence, funded by the Satellite Applications Catapult and UK Space Agency.

Read on below for a list of support in the North East:

North East Business and Innovation Centre

SME Innovation Programme

The NE SME Innovation Programme tackles perceived barriers to innovation by helping SMEs understand and undertake the innovation process, facilitating access to expertise and enabling them to achieve sustained growth through commercial success.

Financial support in the form of an SME innovation grant to leverage expertise which bridges capabilities and lessens the risk associated with the innovation process, resulting in an increase of one or more of the following:

  • Broadening product base
  • Introduction of a new service
  • Introduction of a new market
  • Innovative approaches to operating methods
  • Better use of new technology
  • Increasing sustainability. Read more

RTC North

The Innovation Pathway

The Innovation Pathway increases the competitiveness of North East SMEs operating in or around the healthcare sector. It delivers a programme of support for the uptake and /or commercialisation of new products, processes and intellectual property identified within the North East NHS Trusts. Read more

Innovate2Succeed (Enhancing Management Innovation Capacity in SMEs)

Innovate2Succeed (i2s) provides tailored support to SMEs to help them enhance their innovation management capability, resulting in increased effectiveness in generating and commercially exploiting their ideas. Beneficiaries undergo an in-depth diagnostic assessment of their business and a bespoke package of support is designed and delivered to embed innovation management capability within the company. Read more

North East Business and Innovation Centre

North East Innovation Supernetwork

The Innovation Supernetwork enhances innovation activity in the region by increasing collaborative working between clusters and networks, promoting best practice in innovation support amongst these clusters and networks, strengthening the area’s innovation profile and supporting collaborative, cross-sector innovation projects involving North East SMEs.

The Innovation Supernetwork uses conferences, online tools and expert advice to facilitate the development of a collaborative innovation culture in the area, allowing North East businesses to become involved in larger and more impactful innovation projects which will accelerate their growth and generate economic benefit for the North East. Read more

Centre for Process Innovation

Emerging Electronics Manufacturing Centre

This programme supports the design, development, testing and commercialisation of interactive (smart), industrial and consumer products. The Emerging Electronic Manufacturing Centre brings together investors, entrepreneurs, SMEs, large corporates and universities to establish collaborative partnerships, address manufacturing challenges and exploit the opportunities offered by the emerging ‘Internet of Things’. Read more

Centre for Innovative Formulation

The Centre supports regional/national formulation SMEs to extract additional value from enhanced engineered surfaces and materials. Products can be improved in five ways:

  1. Improving the product per se
  2. Enhancing shelf life/ stability
  3. Enhancing manufacturability
  4. Making products more easily used by end customers
  5. Enabling substitution of sustainable component raw materials.

Dedicated innovation expertise covers the concepts of segmentation, routes to market, proposition definition and competitive advantage. Assistance with technical and patent literature surveys will also be offered. Read more

Newcastle University

Creativity Works

Creative and cultural SMEs are typically agile and adaptive but are often constrained by scale and resources. Creativity Works utilises expertise from four universities to embed innovation potential, processes and know-how within North East creative and cultural SMEs, enabling growth and fostering best practice; exploits the potential for creative and innovation spillover, driving collaboration between creative and cultural SMEs and emerging areas including manufacturing, data and health. Read more


Newcastle University’s Arrow offers bespoke intensive research and innovation support for SMEs in the Durham County Council region. Our support can help to increase your innovation capacity whilst reducing the costs and risks of developing new products and services.

The Innovation Catalyst provides support to co-create a project brief based on your innovation needs, identifies an academic expert to lead the project and an Innovation Associate to work on the project. The Innovation Accelerator provides up to £10k in a match-funded grant to access innovation support from other providers. Read more 

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