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New funding to connect businesses with research power of universities

Norfolk businesses are to harness the power of the latest breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, biotechnology and digital creative thanks to a new partnership between seven universities and colleges including the University of East Anglia (UEA) and Norwich University of the Arts (NUA).

The EIRA project, meaning Enabling Innovation: Research to Application, was awarded £4.7m 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 UEA 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 NUA, Harlow College, the University of Suffolk and Writtle University College.

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

Dr Karen Smith, EIRA Team Manager at UEA, said: “The EIRA scheme will leverage our expertise into strategic sectors for this region to help them and the local economy grow. Furthermore, the scheme will support interaction between UEA and local businesses that will result in knowledge exchange and innovations to support business growth in a skill poor region. Local companies will also benefit from the scheme helping to retain graduate talent within the region.”

Sarah Steed, Director of Innovation and Engagement at Norwich University of the Arts, said: “We are excited that so many businesses have expressed interest in working with the specialist academics at Norwich University of the Arts even at this early stage of the project. High quality, creative design is at the heart of strong commercial growth for the East of England, and the EIRA project offers fantastic opportunities to work with new partners and across key sectors to achieve this.”

With a range of majority-funded grants available, EIRA will help businesses of all sizes develop new products, services, and solutions. The project supports businesses operating in, or seeking solutions from, the three key areas. Support includes Innovation Vouchers to fund access to academic expertise and Research and Development Grants. More opportunities are in development, with 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 (SELEP), and New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (NALEP).

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