An image of the ERDF logo

Innovation Vouchers

Innovation Vouchers are available to eligible local businesses in the West Midlands through a consortium comprising of Aston University, Birmingham City University and the University of Wolverhampton.

How Innovation Vouchers work:

Part funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), they allow small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Greater Birmingham and Solihull, Black Country and The Marches to:

  • Apply for financial support, an Innovation Voucher, worth £2,500 to access external expertise with a knowledge base organisations (research institutes) to support an innovation project
  • Access free support in the form of workshops so that participating companies become more competitive and manage growth effectively

This scheme targets SMART specialisation sectors and aims to develop new processes and systems to improve efficiency of SMEs and to bring new products and services to market.

The project will deliver 190 vouchers in years 2016-2019. Each SME needs to match £1 received as the Innovation Voucher with £1 of its own company funds.

Aston University logo
Birmingham City University logo
University of Wolverhampton logo
Businesses that meet the following criteria can apply:

  • Located in one of the target LEP areas
  • Have received less than Euros 200,000 de minimis state aid in the last three years
  • Meet the European Union definition of a small and medium sized enterprise i.e. employ less than 250 full time staff (or equivalent), have an annual turnover of no more than 50 million euros and/or annual balance sheet no more than 43 million euros
  • Able to contribute a minimum of £2,500 to match fund the grant
  • Meet the eligibility guidelines for use of the Innovation Voucher
  • Start-ups of all sizes, whether or not VAT registered
  • Self-employed & sole traders
  • Partnerships/limited liability partnerships
  • Companies (private or public limited companies; private unlimited companies)
  • Independent spin-outs from established businesses, universities and other research and development organisations
  • Not for profit companies, co-operatives, community enterprises, social enterprises
  • Farm enterprises
  • New to the region branches of businesses which remain established elsewhere in the UK (i.e. expansions)
  • Foreign direct investment (FDI) bringing new enterprises to the region
  • Time investment and subsequent expansions
Companies from certain sectors (and those associated with these sectors) will be given priority access to the grants (see list below), however, applications from companies not included in these groups that have good innovation ideas will also be considered.

Greater Birmingham and Solihull


  • Birmingham
  • Solihull
  • Cannock Chase
  • Lichfield
  • Tamworth
  • East Staffordshire (based upon Burton and Uttoxeter)
  • Redditch
  • Bromsgrove
  • Wyre Forest (based upon Kidderminster)

Priority Sectors:

  • Advanced Manufacturing including Automotive and Aerospace
  • Low Carbon
  • ICT
  • Digital and Creative
  • Life Science

Black Country


  • Dudley
  • Sandwell
  • Walsall
  • Wolverhampton

Priority Sectors:

  • Transport Technologies including Aerospace and Automotive
  • Building Technologies / Construction
  • Advanced Manufacturing including Advanced Engineering
  • Environmental Technologies
  • Business Services

The Marches


  • Telford and Wrekin
  • Shropshire
  • Herefordshire

Priority Sectors:

  • Defence and Securities
  • Advanced Engineering and Manufacturing
  • Environmental Technologies and Services
  • Renewable Energy, water technology, waste management and pollution control
  • Food and Drink (processing, food packaging, materials innovation, testing and development, specialist logistics and preservation)

Eligible activities

General activities and processes:

  • New product/ process development
  • New business model development
  • Efficiency audit, process change
  • Supply chain management and logistics
  • New service delivery and customer interface
  • New service development
  • Product and service testing and economic impact assessment
  • Innovation/technology audit

Specific activities where particular limitations apply:

  • Exploiting advances web technologies for the region and/or industry (this does not include standard web design, development or search optimisation)
  • Market research
  • Equipment purchases to develop prototypes
  • Capital items to develop prototypes
  • Software purchases to develop prototypes

Types of processes that include the above themes:

  • Opportunity Analysis to support your ideas in the Idea Screening Phase
  • Idea Screening
  • Concept development, prototyping and testing
  • Development the marketing and engineering details
  • Identification & investigation of intellectual property, including the process for intellectual property creation, protection (but not patent maintenance fees to Intellectual Property Office or relevant official organisations)
  • Feasibility through virtual computer aided rendering and rapid prototyping
  • Concept testing
  • Development of Business Plan
  • Beta Testing and Market Testing
  • Producing a physical prototype or mock-up
  • Testing the product (and its packaging) in typical usage situations
  • Conducting focus group customer interviews
  • Producing an initial run of the product
  • Technical implementation
  • New programme initiation
  • Finalising Quality Management System
  • Resource estimation
  • Requirement publication
  • Publishing technical communications such as data sheets
  • Engineering operations planning
  • Department scheduling
  • Supplier collaboration
  • Logistics plan
  • Resource plan publication
  • Program review and monitoring
  • Contingencies – what-if planning
  • Commercialization (often considered post-NPD)
  • Launch the product
  • Critical path analysis
  • New Product Pricing
  • Impact of new product on the entire product portfolio
  • Value Analysis (internal & external)
  • Analysis of competition and alternative competitive technologies
  • Analysis of costs and selling price
  • Forecast of unit volumes, revenue, and profit

Exploiting advanced web technologies for the region and/ or industry (this does not include standard web design, development or search optimisation):

  • Consultancy towards IT Strategy and Value Optimisation
  • Building security algorithms & AI
  • Design & building of Integrated Development Environments (IDEs)
  • Specialist electronic system, Software design and computer engineering tools
  • Designing of Specialist CRM systems that drive hardware
  • APP design & development for Mobile & portable devices (such as tablets, phones and PDAs)
  • Development of GIS (Geographical Information Systems)
  • Analysis and Design of Algorithms
  • Electronic Communication and Concurrency
  • Compression Methods for Multimedia
  • Cryptography and Information Security
  • System Modelling
  • Distributed Systems and Applications
  • Software Measurement and Quality Assurance
  • Informatics (including Bioinformatics) e.g. Software & hardware design of fingerprint or IRIS scanners etc. that can be controlled through web technologies

Market research:

  • Launch new products or services
  • Off the shelf market research reports
  • Customised market research done through professional consultants & market research Companies
  • Overseas market entry research reports done by specialist Accredited organisations / trade & industry bodies in the UK & overseas

Ineligible activities

  • Achieving compliance with statutory regulations or legislation
  • Intellectual property protection
  • Standard training courses
  • Software purchases
  • Capital equipment purchases
  • Aid that would promote/subsidise the cost of exports
  • Internships for students of knowledge providers
  • Design and production of advertising materials
  • Sales and marketing activities – this includes standard website design, development and search optimisation (the only exception would be the exploitation of new web technology for the region and /or industry)
  • Advertising and promotional activities e.g. design of posters leaflets etc.
  • Accreditations
  • Capital items
  • Travel costs
  • Continuation and existing projects with the knowledge providers
  • Legal advice
Owners and employees of eligible SMEs are invited to attend FREE business innovation workshops as part of the Innovation Voucher programme.  These workshops will allow SMEs to:

  • Access academic and industry business innovation knowledge and expertise
  • Get help and direction with identifying their business growth potential
  • Create a business innovation strategy to help them achieve their business development objectives
  • Connect with other companies looking for business collaborations to drive innovative ideas for business growth
  • Discover how they can obtain a £2,500 Innovation Voucher to spend on business innovation activities

The Business Innovation Workshops are delivered in three parts:

  • WORKSHOP 1: Envisioning for growth through innovation
  • WORKSHOP 2: Strategy and leadership for innovation
  • WORKSHOP 3: Marketing and finance for innovation

All workshops start at 9:30am and finish at 5.00pm. Lunch and refreshments will be provided. Click the relevant links below to book.

WORKSHOP 1: Envisioning for growth through innovation

Businesses are exposed to lots of uncertainties in their environment. As well as the everyday internal challenges businesses face, external factors such as the state of the economy, rapid changes in technology or a turbulent political landscape can make it difficult for businesses to prepare a robust growth strategy for the future.

This workshop will give SMEs hands on tools to understand how to grow their business within the context of the environment around them – whether they’re looking to grow regionally, nationally or even internationally.

WORKSHOP 2: Strategy and leadership for innovation

The workshop is designed around 3 pillars:

    • Pillar 1: Generating ideas, identifying and exploiting opportunities
    • Pillar 2: Formulating an appropriate strategic position and business model
    • Pillar 3: Setting up organisational mechanisms and culture that support innovation

It is designed to help SMEs build their strategic leadership capacity and enhance the cultural and structural effectiveness of their organisation for innovation.

WORKSHOP 3: Marketing and finance for innovation

This workshop focuses on the importance of matching marketing strategy with opportunities in order to maximise chances of success; a method of ‘connecting’ what the SME can do to successfully win new business. This workshop will also present the latest research on availability of business finance including traditional forms, innovation in funding including peer to peer and crowd funding, social lending etc. 



      • BCU – There is a multi-storey car park owned and managed by Birmingham City Council situated adjacent to Millennium Point. The car park can be accessed via Jennens Road and Millennium Point is clearly signposted from all main routes into the city – simply follow the brown tourist signs. The nearest motorways are the M6, M5 and M42.  NB. If using sat nav please use the following postcode – B4 7AP. The multi-storey car park has a height restriction of 2.1m (6’10”).
      • WBSC – Free parking is available in front of the building
      • HBSC – Limited parking is available directly outside the centre.  Additional free car parking is available on the overflow car park, located below:
An image of a map showing the location of the overflow carpark in Hereford
      • TBSC – Free parking is available on site

Case Studies

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