Students Staff

04 April 2016

KEEP+ partnership secures £9.4m from ERDF to support UK’s innovation and growth

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A partnership of universities including the University of Essex has secured £9.4m of funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to support innovation and growth amongst British small businesses.

The funding will enable small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across the East and the South East of England to connect with expertise at universities through a new programme of subsidised research and development support.

The KEEP+ programme, which stands for Knowledge Exchange and Embed Partnerships, will connect SMEs to academic expertise and graduate talent, and will enable SMEs to develop and launch new products and services.

Led by Anglia Ruskin University, KEEP+ is a partnership that unites nine delivery partners: EELGA (East of England Local Government Association); University of Brighton; University Campus Suffolk; University of East Anglia; University of Essex; University of Greenwich; University of Hertfordshire; University of Kent and Norwich University of the Arts.

The programme will run for three years and will be open to SMEs registered and actively trading in the four Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) areas that cover: Cambridgeshire (Greater Cambridgeshire/Greater Peterborough (LEP), Hertfordshire (Hertfordshire LEP), Suffolk and Norfolk (New Anglia LEP) and Essex, Kent and East Sussex (South East LEP).

Amongst the benefits available to local companies are:

  • 12-week graduate innovation internships
  • Three-way collaborative partnerships between businesses
  • Graduate employees and academic experts, that typically last 12 months
  • Innovation networking events

The innovation network events will bring innovative companies together with third sector organisations and charities, Local Authorities, and the NHS to explore how they could capitalise on the new market opportunities created by major societal challenges such as ageing and climate change.

KEEP+ follows on from the successful Low Carbon KEEP programme (also funded by the European Regional Development Fund) that created 85 new jobs and helped over 200 SMEs in the East of England increase their competitiveness, productivity and profits.

Feedback from the Low Carbon KEEP programme showed SMEs felt cost was the most significant barrier to developing new ideas, products and services while two-thirds said they would need support with innovation in the next three years.

Professor Heather Laurie, Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research (Designate) at the University of Essex, said: “Businesses in the region want to innovate and this funding worth over £9m from the European Regional Development Fund will support them to grow their businesses through innovation.

"The new KEEP+ programme will help them to access the support, expertise and talent they are looking for.

"With our growing Knowledge Gateway research and technology park - which draws on our global reputation for analytics and data science and outstanding support for SMEs - we are perfectly placed to help businesses thrive through the KEEP+ programme.”

SMEs that are interested in taking part in KEEP+ should email Knowledge Exchange Manager at the University of Essex Ville Karhusaari at:

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