Business

New £5,000 Covid innovation grant scheme opens for SMEs

SMEs in the north which are innovating can apply for a new grant support scheme introduced by the Department for the Economy
Gary McDonald Business Editor

SMALL businesses in the north's innovation sphere which are testing, validating or developing ideas for commercialisation are being offered a further grant opportunity under Stormont's Covid help scheme.

The Economic Recovery Innovation Grant (ERIG) will back SMEs develop new, or improve existing, products, services or processes through innovation.

Developed by Invest NI to support businesses to recover from the economic impact of the pandemic, the scheme will provide companies with grants of up to £5,000.

It will run alongside the jobs agency's programme of Innovation Vouchers and provide businesses more flexibility in how to develop their ideas.

Part-funded by the Department for the Economy's economic recovery action plan, just £4 million has been set aside, so potentially less than 1,000 businesses will benefit, and the scheme is on a strictly first-come-first-served basis.

And given that the application and assessment process may take eight working weeks to complete, Invest NI has said businesses should apply for ERIG straight away, with the scheme only open to Monday January 31.

Economy Minister Gordon Lyons said: “Innovation is how we adapt to change, how businesses continue to meet the needs of customers, and how we drive our economy forward.

“This new grant will provide up to £5,000 towards eligible costs for the development, testing and introduction of an innovative idea into a business.”

It is intended that the grant (details at www.investni.com/erig) will cover costs for the likes of testing and developing new products or processes; equipment; skills development; marketing; and consultancy.

Invest NI chief executive Kevin Holland added: “Innovation demands both creativity and process – a structured managed process. The right idea, which has been tested and developed, and commercialised or implemented, can create the best value.

“This process can seem intimidating to smaller businesses, so we want to provide as much support as we can to help them move from innovative ideas to commercialisation, and add value to their business.

“It is therefore important to make sure a business is at the right stage of innovating to get the most out of this support.

Those interested in applying to ERIG must complete an Innovate NI assessment first at www.innovateni.com, and those businesses assessed as Silver Level Innovators will then be eligible to apply for the new grant, which is open for applications from today.

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