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The South East is home to a thriving digital innovation economy, but the region’s large manufacturing and product design base is sometimes less visible.

“We’d love to support more of the SMEs developing product innovations locally,” says Helena Jevons, Sales and Marketing Advisor at Sussex Innovation. “The high-growth business ecosystem that we’re part of includes a lot of app and platform developers, but it seems that hardware is perceived as a more difficult business model to get right. It takes a whole village to deliver a successful physical product, so there are far fewer start-ups prepared to take the risk – which is a shame.”

Helena is part of the team at Sussex Innovation responsible for delivering the BRAIN project – an EU-funded initiative that offers finance for developing and protecting new products. IP grants under the scheme provide matched funding of up to £10,000 for registered SMEs to spend on third party costs that advance the development of their innovations. This could include IP protection and advice, physical prototyping or technical certification and validation.

“The grants are available to support the commercialisation and protection of almost any type of product aside from software development,” explains Sussex Innovation’s David Porter, who is working to help businesses apply for the scheme. “We’ve funded everything from an app developer who was looking to build a proof of concept for a connected wearable device, to progressing a commercially-ready prototype and obtaining technical certification for a new agricultural technology.

“We’re also supporting two pre-revenue companies – a medical device concept and a packaging solution for FMCG products – to help them better understand their IP position and pursue the appropriate patents and trademarks before they go to market.”

Developing a new product is one thing, but understanding and reaching the market is something else entirely. As well as financial support for these crucial first steps, any SME joining the network can also claim up to 12 hours of fully funded mentoring and advice from Sussex Innovation’s expert innovation consultancy team. This can include market research and insight, positioning, messaging and branding work, or the opportunity to workshop key questions around the business model.

Ultimately these packages of financial support and consultancy are designed to help introduce the South East’s small businesses to larger organisations and partner with them to develop new products and services.

What can I use the IP grant for?

There are a wide variety of situations where the funding can be applied to help bridge the gap to reaching an established business proposition, for example:

• Reviewing pre-existing patents for similar market propositions
Researching applications of emerging technology into new sectors
• Filing a patent for a new technological innovation or invention
• Trademarking brand properties and imagery for consumer goods
• Product stability testing, kitemarking and meeting regulatory compliance standards
• Manufacturing a proof of concept or prototype prior to seeking IP protection


Commercialising Academic Research

If you’re a knowledge-based SME looking to develop innovative new products and services with an academic research partner, there is additional funding available to you through the programme.

An academic IP grant is intended to help SMEs cover direct cost of commercial and technical evaluation of intellectual property arising from university research. These grants are for a maximum of £25,000 or 40% of the project cost, whichever is the smaller figure.

If you’re a patent lawyer, manufacturer or IP consultant working with new product innovators in the South East, Sussex Innovation want to hear from you. If you think your clients could benefit from an IP grant and would like to refer them, call 01273 704400 and ask to speak with David Porter or Helena Jevons.

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