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17 January, 2019 - 13:24 By Kate Sweeney

Fresh wave of innovation promised in business-academia powerplay

It’s how the Cambridge Phenomenon started – in 1960 when Cambridge Consultants founder Tim Eiloart offered to put university brainpower at the disposal of local businesses.

Fast forward almost 60 years and academic leaders in the East of England are inviting companies to drive a new wave of innovation based on nextgen technologies.

Businesses can harness the power of the latest breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, biotechnology and digital creative thanks to a new partnership between seven universities and colleges across the region.

The EIRA project – Enabling Innovation: Research to Application –  was awarded £4.7 million from Research England’s Connecting Capability Fund and is now open for applications from businesses looking to innovate by working with academics.

The aim of EIRA is to support the national Industrial Strategy by driving growth and increasing productivity in the East of England by transforming the way businesses connect with universities and colleges.

The EIRA network is led by the University of Essex working with the University of East Anglia and the University of Kent, fellow members of the Eastern Academic Research Consortium (Eastern ARC) which was established to encourage research collaboration and training.

The other EIRA network members are Harlow College, Norwich University of the Arts, the University of Suffolk and Writtle University College.

AI, biotech and digital creative are the key focus for EIRA with the network allowing businesses to access both expertise and specialist facilities.


Kirstie Cochrane

EIRA director Kirstie Cochrane said: “Artificial intelligence is transforming all sectors of our economy, biotechnology is having an impact on everything from food production to medicine and the East of England is recognised as a centre of excellence in the digital creative sector.

“EIRA is aiming to support the development of businesses in the East of England which are taking full advantage of the opportunities offered by these fast moving sections of our economy.”

With a range of majority-funded grants available, EIRA will help businesses of all sizes develop new products, services, and solutions. Support includes innovation vouchers to fund access to academic expertise and R & D grants. More opportunities are in development, including innovation internships and start-up microfinance.

Partners from industry, regional membership organisations, and local enterprise partnerships strengthen EIRA’s offering. They include BT, TechEast, AgriTech East, Digital Catapult, South Essex Local Enterprise Partnership, and New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership.

• Businesses and academics interested in accessing EIRA funding for innovative projects can find out more at www.eira.ac.uk

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