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Small Businesses: Innovation

Volume 481: debated on Monday 20 October 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Innovation, Universities and Skills what recent steps the Government has taken to increase the use of innovation in small business. (227369)

We are introducing a number of measures aimed at increasing the level of innovation within small business. These include:

Increased support for business innovation through the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) including funding for Knowledge Transfer Partnerships—which will double in number over the next three years—and support for UK engagement in the Eurostars scheme for research performing SMEs;

Refocusing of the Small Business Research Initiative is making good progress. The reformed model will aim to develop hard technologies and innovative products which better meet the future needs of the buyer Departments and, at the same time, drive an increase in demand for R and D services from early-stage, high-technology, SMEs by supporting them through a critical stage of their development and future growth;

Over the English regions, at least 500 businesses will be given an innovation voucher, as a means for smaller firms to collaborate with knowledge-based institutions, with the aspiration that this will increase to at least 1,000 per year by 2011 as the vouchers are demonstrated to be effective for business;

The rate of tax relief under the SME R and D tax credits scheme was increased significantly from 1 August to support and incentivise SMEs to undertake more R and D and the scheme was broadened to include companies with between 250 and 449 employees;

DIUS's grant for research and development, delivered by RDAs, provides support of up to £250,000 to help small and medium-sized businesses to research and develop technologically innovative products and processes and, between January and June 2008, 120 businesses were offered funding of £10 million through the scheme; and

The FE Specialisation and Innovation Fund will build the capacity of the FE sector to support businesses to raise their innovation potential through knowledge transfer and we are encouraging FE providers to showcase their expertise in implementing innovative business solutions, particularly for SMEs, through a number of pathfinder projects.

In addition, we have also published a Higher Level Skills Strategy that provides an overall framework for driving up the high level skills that contribute to innovation in business. We are also encouraging more HEIs to develop and offer high level programmes for management and leadership as part of the new management and leadership funding for SMEs under the Train to Gain Plan for Growth.