Small businesses can apply for European grants to help them develop new skills.
The Innovation Vouchers scheme allows micro, small, and medium sized firms to apply for up to £5,000 in order to work with a new supplier for the first time to acquire new knowledge or technology. The Voucher scheme is intended to help business "develop innovative products, processes and services and explore new markets."
The vouchers are administered by the government's Innovation Agency, which intends to "accelerate economic growth by stimulating and supporting business-led innovation." The scheme was recently extended, and the total 'pot' from which the vouchers are drawn has now reached £500,000.
What are the vouchers for?
Innovation vouchers are for businesses that require specialist help to make an idea a reality. They are used to pay for "knowledge or technology transfer" from a supplier with which you have not previously dealt. The vouchers are made available in 'rounds', and each of these rounds applies to one of the Innovation Agency's 'priority sectors'. For example, vouchers are currently available for purchases that apply to areas including cyber security, open data, agrifood, and the built environment.
The Innovation Agency intends that the grants will encourage new experiences of collaborative working. Furthermore, vouchers are also available to "help you think through" ideas that might ultimately lead to an application for another European competition or grant.
Who can apply?
The vouchers are available to small, micro, and medium-sized firms, as defined by the European Community. The application process will tell you whether or not you qualify after you answer a series of set questions.
You should also note that you can only claim a maximum of €200,000 in EU state aid over a rolling three year period. You will be required to state that you are below this limit during the application process.
How do I apply?
Applications for innovation vouchers should be made through the Innovation Vouchers Portal. This website lists each of the rounds that are currently open, and provides a step-by-step application form, which you can fill in online. Visit the Innovation Vouchers Portal here.