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Opportunity from Crisis: the role of innovation for SMEs since COVID-19

Posted on: 17/12/2021

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses have had to innovate in order to survive. Innovation can take many forms, from making changes to processes or supply chains, remote working, digital transformation, or pivoting products to enter new markets or meet changing customer needs. With the reliance on innovation increasing, many businesses looked for funding and support in order to capitalise on this opportunity.

In response to the sharp increase in businesses innovating, the UK Government is increasingly looking to support its vision to make the UK a global leader for innovation by 2035, as well as a driver for economic growth. As part of the UK’s Innovation Strategy, the Government announced it was looking to increase annual public investment in R&D to a record £22billion. It is currently estimated that UKRI’s COVID-19 response has delivered £400 million of new investments to over 3,000 businesses across the UK and UKRI reports seeing double, sometimes triple-figure growth in applications for programmes such as Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, Women in Innovation and Young Innovators awards.

At Exemplas, as part of our delivery of Innovate UK EDGE, we have supported a wide range of SMEs with their innovations during COVID-19. In the last 12 months, Innovate UK EDGE businesses in the East of England have seen impacts to the value of £88.4million in funding and finance raised across 146 businesses, with 2,275 jobs created and safeguarded across 217 businesses, and £1million in cost savings across 19 businesses.

One Innovate UK EDGE client, Worksafe Design developed a novel, protective hood as an alternative to facemasks for medical staff, which provided clear vision and easier communication with patients. With support from their Innovation & Growth Specialist, Worksafe Design received £75k in COVID-19 Fast response funding, patented their products, and received a KEEP+ grant to support with marketing. Worksafe Design Ltd Founder, Peter Slee-Smith notes, “We will definitely benefit from Innovate UK EDGE’s support in taking the product and business forward, in particular, to expand in our key markets and get investment ready, so that we are in the best position to scale.”

We are experts in providing SMEs with the support they need to grow their business. Through our delivery of Innovate UK EDGE in the East of England, we provide bespoke mentoring, coaching and advisory support to help businesses scale and grow through innovation.

Find out more about how we support SMEs in the public sector.

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