News story

New review to boost innovation and help small businesses bring new technologies to market

A new review to help small businesses access the support needed to take their products from innovative ideas to reality has been announced.

  • review of the Small Business Research Initiative to improve access to support and funding to develop new technologies
  • led by David Connell, the review will identify existing barriers and provide recommendations to improve the programme
  • part of the government’s Industrial Strategy to build on the UK’s strengths to generate further growth

A new review to help more small businesses access the support they need to take their products from innovative ideas to reality has been announced by the Prime Minister in her first speech to the CBI.

Supporting innovation and new technologies is a key part of the government’s Industrial Strategy to boost growth and create an economy that works for all. Small businesses across the UK are responsible for developing new ideas which have the potential to help meet some of the challenges affecting society, but they often struggle to fund further development to take their products to the next level.

The review of the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) will identify the barriers facing small businesses and provide recommendations on how to tackle them. Led by industry expert David Connell, the review will ensure small businesses are able to access the support on offer from government and help make the most of the talent that exists in the UK’s science and research sector.

Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said:

Small businesses across the UK are pioneering new technologies that have the potential to improve the lives of millions both here in the UK and across the globe.

The review of our Small Business Research Initiative will ensure we are harnessing the best of this talent and providing additional support where we can to get more ideas to market.

The SBRI is a cross-government programme, managed by Innovate UK. It enables small businesses to bid for government research and development contracts to develop new technologies. It provides companies with £50,000 to £100,000 to test an idea, and then up to £1 million to develop prototypes.

Since 2009, the programme has provided over £330 million of contracts to companies to develop solutions for a range of areas, including improving the security of payments via mobile phones and new methods to detect lung cancer earlier. Businesses that have been part of the initiative report annual sales growth of more than 30% as a result of the funding and support.

David Connell said:

I am delighted to be asked to lead this review, and am looking forward to working with businesses and government to identify how the Small Business Research Initiative can maximise its impact.

The review is due to report in spring 2017.

David Connell has spent over 30 years in the UK’s science and technology based business sector, including co-founding an early stage Cambridge Venture Capital Fund and manufacturing technology start-up. He is also a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for Business Research at the Cambridge Judge Business School and an expert on new venture start up strategies and government innovation policies. David advised government on the introduction of SBRI and has continued to be closely involved with it.

The Small Business Research Initiative has developed a range of innovative solutions for public sector challenges, including autonomous marine vessels that can gather data for scientific research from oceans for several months at a time, and a preventative care treatment using an LED sleep-mask to tackle diabetes-related sight loss.

Further details and examples of successful SBRI projects.