Small to medium sized businesses (SMEs) in Western Scotland are set to benefit from a £16.4 Million programme to encourage research and innovation. Launched as Co-Innovate, the project is supported by the European Union’s INTERREG VA programme and managed by the special EU programmes body.
In Scotland, it will encourage SME innovation and growth in Argyll and Bute, Lochaber, Skye, the Outer Hebrides, Ayrshire and Dumfries, and Galloway. It also covers Northern Ireland and the border region of Ireland. Co-Innovate hope to increase the number of SMEs in the regions by 22-33% over the next five years.
It will bring together the three regions’ key development agencies to deliver a programme aligned with each government’s strategic priorities, led by cross-border body InterTradeIreland in partnership with Enterprise Northern Ireland, East Border Region, Local Enterprise Office in the border region, Scottish Enterprise, and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.
Launching Co-Innovate, Irish Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys, said: “This is a very positive development for SMEs in our border counties. Supporting SMEs is a key strategic priority for the government and it’s crucial we continue to encourage and nurture innovation.
“Initiatives like Co-Innovate are central to this goal, providing one-to-one help and mentoring for smaller companies to help embed a culture of innovation in their businesses. I would like to acknowledge the work and contribution of the partnership of organisations that have come together to establish this important funding programme for the border region.”
The Scottish element of the programme was launched on Monday in Dunstaffnage near Oban by Scottish Government Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe, Michael Russell.
Commenting on the initiative, Russell said: “SMEs play a crucial role in Scotland’s economy, particularly in many rural and fragile areas where they have an additional role in strengthening community resilience. Innovation, the development and commercialisation of new ideas, is key to the success and growth of these businesses, so it’s vital that we continue to support and encourage this.
“That’s what Co-Innovate is all about and I very much welcome its launch today in Scotland. I also welcome the partnership approach being taken to its delivery and the opportunities this will create for cross-border collaborations.”