Durham Future Innovation Building Project

Durham Future Innovation Building Project


Aims of the programme

The programme is designed to support innovation in the Construction, Health and Elec-Tech sectors. It runs from 1 January 2021 until 30 June 2023. It is designed to support innovation to transform products, processes and services for the future, and create possibilities to extend, transform, replace and develop entirely new products and markets, growing their supply chains, feeding into improved productivity, employment and wider economic and other benefits for County Durham. These sectors have been identified as they are areas of strength in County Durham.

Innovation areas have been further identified as strategically important in the LEP Economic Plan for the North East, to grow productivity, employment and new markets. At government level, AI, The Data Economy, The Future of Mobility, Clean Growth, Ageing Society, and more recently The Green Economy, Net Zero and the Eight Great Enabling Technologies are very important innovation considerations for the future. Innovation may be disruptive, life enhancing and transition society to adapt, in order to meet our future needs in County Durham, and globally.

What is on offer?

Masterclasses and Workshops

The project is open to any SME in County Durham offering a great new product, process or service innovation in these sectors and their supply chains. The programme is designed to create and apply an innovation mindset, to unlock opportunities, from a series of masterclasses and workshops. These are designed to support creative learning methods, and key business and IP knowledge to ideate not just one innovation but have the thinking and capability to work on several innovations, now and in well into the future. Business will re-engage with their initial creativity to continuously re-appraise their offer, by aligning innovation alongside their business strategy.

SMEs are encouraged to attend masterclasses and workshops to unlock their creative potential, whether their current markets are in the sectors covered by the programme, or they want to diversity and apply innovation to extend their primary markets. Workshops and Masterclasses will be advertised throughout the programme, and businesses can attend at any stage. All workshops are designed to provide user centred design and discovery methods to applications, markets and commercialisation, encouraging wide ranging ideas and needs to be considered.

  • Masterclasses will provide trends and new innovations in your sector, to help you with ideation and wider trends across sectors, which may influence your markets and their direction.
  • Workshops provide some of the key components to ignite your creativity.
    • Design – interpreting human needs, functionality, design research methods, thinking, and iteration.
    • Data and technology – and what it can offer to feed the innovation, understand needs and be part of the innovation.
    • Innovation – the lifecycle and its practical application, methods to transform and innovate, movements for change, and disruption.
    • IP – to appraise and make best use of the innovation and its potential in all available markets
    • Marketing – to research, place, position and promote the innovation with available budgets and communications channels.
    • Project management – to support the innovation, by proving a process to support collaboration and commercialisation
    • Funding – specifically tailored to the innovation process and how to realise an innovation with available support and a great action plan.

Find out more about our first masterclass here.

Action Plans

The action plan not only supports innovation thinking and a strategy towards commercialisation, it also feeds ideas for future directions, to gain real understanding about where SMEs can grow. The action plan can then help the business to access further collaborations and funding.

Innovators may be able to access funding via Business Durham to support external collaboration and source expertise, or further develop their internal capacity to drive an innovation.

The Ecosystems

There will be regular networking events to encourage collaboration, learning and ideas creation, and LinkedIn communities for each sector, to facilitate further discussions online. By building effective ecosystems, the project aims to facilitate active collaboration and ideas that lead to even more new products, processes and services, and many methods and networks to drive innovation and new market potential.

The Application Process?

Applicants can enquire at any time during the project to initiate an innovation action plan and apply for the funding grants available. Any SME in County Durham is welcome to enquire, whether they are currently working in these sectors, or they would like to innovate and diversify for the future.

What sort of innovation attracts funding?

Our experts from industry and the Business Durham Management Team will be looking for exciting new ways of building in circularity, referencing The Eight Great Enabling Technologies, providing the changes needed for the green economy and Net Zero targets. They will also consider how innovations may further improve supply chain potential in County Durham, enhance high value employment growth and economic growth for County Durham.

What are the benefits for getting involved? Why?

Many businesses do not have time or resources to source research and development experts, or develop innovation ideas on their own, so whilst they may have great innovation ideas, often these ideas do not get progressed beyond a great idea, and they can be developed elsewhere by businesses who are in a position to progress them. This can be a barrier to innovation.

Other businesses may have a great idea, but it requires further refinement and wider analysis, to fully appreciate the innovations and product extensions it could offer the SME.

A green revolution has already been announced by central government, whilst there is now legislation and a commitment by the UK and Durham County Council to work towards this goal, there are exciting opportunities resulting from a transition towards a green economy. The possibilities for change are immense and offer the chance for SMEs to develop very exciting and disruptive innovations, in these sectors.

  • As an SME you can apply for a research and development grant, to develop your innovation in collaboration with external research and development expertise. This can speed up the innovation and commercialisation process.
  • As an SME you can apply for a capacity grant to embed innovation into your business for 6 months, sourcing the necessary expertise to help you innovate. (Salary must be at least 25k).
  • As an SME you can apply for one or both grants available as part of this programme.
  • By attending masterclasses and workshops you significantly increase your potential to innovate and design not just one innovation, but multiple innovations covering a range of needs and directions. Innovation is not only a great way to diversify, it can propel your business to be at the forefront of new markets.
  • As an SME, innovation can increase productivity, extend, renew or replace your products, processes and /or services to meet future needs, and it grow your business significantly.
  • This programme gives you the opportunity and potential to be at the forefront of the technological next green industrial revolution.
  • By assessing and creating your innovation potential, you are ready to attract further interest, investment opportunities, sales, markets and wider trade options.

The Sectors


Construction is undergoing a value-based innovation. In part this has arisen from the ability to innovate directly with the Industry 4.0 revolution, but it is now being accelerated by environmental needs to provide sustainable materials, a circular economy, and to think about how we live and work in the future. Linked to this is a drive to look for renewable fuel sources, less polluting transport methods, water recycling, energy harvesting and clean technologies.


Historically, successful innovators in healthcare have transformed the quality of life for people globally. They have been inspired to change the quality of life to meet a specific challenge. Innovations have included new diagnostic equipment, surgical equipment, robotic and non-invasive methods, customised healthcare, telehealth, precision medicine, advancing imaging systems, digital imaging, and more. Recent growth has been accelerated by smart technologies. Significant growth has been seen in biotechnology, pharmaceutical customisation, holistic healthcare, and a move to take healthcare to the patient.


We can now use sensors and smart technologies to drive innovation across all sectors, and areas of life. Digital technologies have acted as a catalyst to a new industrial revolution which cuts across energy, logistics, transport, construction, health, wellbeing, agriculture, manufacturing, renewable energy, smart cities and towns, houses, health, hospitals, food and drink and more. Artificial intelligence and big data have further roles to play in how we live and work in the future and how we can fully appreciate the power of electronic technologies across all industrial sectors.