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26 May, 2006 - 17:29 By Staff Reporter

£9.5m for industry-academia interface

The East of England is to receive a £9.5 million cash injection from the UK government in an effort to boost collaboration between academia and industry following a hard-fought tender between English Higher Education (HE) institutes.

The Universities of Essex and East Anglia (UEA) are two of just 11 institutions who will share £52 million from the Department for Trade and Industry’s (DTI) £200m, third Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF).

Essex will receive £4,632,174 for Business Edge, a collaborative project with the Universities of Cambridge, Glasgow, Leeds, Liverpool, Warwick and the Open University, while UEA is due to receive £4,863,538 for its Carbon Connections scheme.

Business Edge will develop online available software capable of tailoring business advice to the individual needs of entrepreneurs across the UK to improve the survival rates of new and growing businesses.

The project will also provide a programme of support activities delivered through the higher education partners, their local regional development agencies and their networks of business support agencies.

Dr Janice Pittis from the University of Essex and project manager for Business Edge, said: "The Business Edge software will be a diagnostic tool that entrepreneurs can use to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their business plan.

"It will also provide them with advice and support specific to their individual needs.

"Our key aim is to provide nationwide support for new and growing businesses, and in doing so, strengthen the country’s economy by improving the success and sustainability of businesses."

As well as providing specific support to users, the Business Edge software will collect valuable aggregated time-series information about business growth on a national basis.

With carbon reduction sat at the top of international, political, economic and social agendas, UEA’s Carbon Connections will address how industry can implement the necessary changes.

The scheme contends that future success in carbon reduction relies upon behavioural change across all sectors and moving economies onto low-carbon growth pathways using low carbon technologies.

Carbon Connections will actively support innovation, development and implementation in carbon reduction to address stakeholder needs.

It will forge a close network of partners to identify, fund, develop and deliver technical and social interventions – projects – to effect measurable carbon reduction.

Innovation will be delivered from inception to marketplace, and the Carbon Connections brand will be underpinned by both academic credibility and commercial endorsement.

The HEIF was established as a direct a response to the Lambert report on business-university collaboration, its aim to address the funding gaps, which inhibit the translation of research and expertise into the market.

The first HEIF allocated £78m to 89 applicants and HEIF 2 over £185m to 124 projects.

The current round of HEIF is worth more than £200m. HEIF allocates 75 per cent to all universities in England on the basis of a formula with the remaining 25 per cent awarded on a competitive basis.

Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Alistair Darling, said: "Innovation and science are the keys to UK economic growth. Figures show that university spinouts floated on the stock market over the last two years were valued at more than £1 billion.

"Exploiting the wealth of knowledge in higher education and translating that into real business opportunities is, therefore, vitally important for the UK economy.

"The HEIF brings together university research with private sector investment, and stimulates a culture of entrepreneurship within Higher Education institutions."

The other recipients under the competitive element of the award are: The University of the Arts London, £5m; Oxford Brookes University, £5m; the University of Sheffield, £4.8m; the University of Wolverhampton, £5m; the University of Birmingham, £3.6m; the University of Leeds, £4.7m; Manchester Metropolitan University, £5m; Queen Mary, £5m and University College London, £5m.

o The University of Essex has also been awarded an individual HEIF grant of £1.73m which will enable it to extend its growing portfolio of knowledge transfer activities such as technology transfer, licensing, consultancy, provision of short courses and enterprise training.

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