Tim Robinson, COO of TechEast, shares his monthly roundup of the biggest tech news stories from the East of England.

January 2019 was defined by one word: opportunity. From initiatives fuelled by Industrial Strategy, to investments and acquisitions by UK giants with global reach, the funds are in place for ambitious businesses in the East of England.

Funding and expert support from £4.7m EIRA project – universities to boost business success

Seven universities and colleges have banded together to provide expert support to businesses across the East of England. The EIRA project – the acronym stands for Enabling Innovation: Research to Application – was awarded £4.7m from Research England’s Connecting Capability Fund and is now open for applications from businesses looking to innovate by working with academics.

EIRA’s support is divided into three main themes: artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and digital creative. These themes represent the expertise of the partner universities and were selected to meet the needs of industry in the region. EIRA’s services are available to all businesses, even if they don’t operate in these sectors themselves. As long as you’re working on a project or problem under these themes, you can apply.

EIRA Director Dr Kirstie Cochrane told TechEast: “EIRA has a number of support options available to help businesses of all sizes. Larger companies may benefit from our research and development grants or innovation vouchers, allowing them to tap into academic expertise for AI, biotech, or creative digital projects. Smaller businesses trying to tackle a problem may benefit from a workshop with one of our i-Teams (a group of interdisciplinary students) who act as consultants to brainstorm solutions.”

There’s a range of opportunities for all businesses in the region to get involved. You can get in touch with the team through the EIRA website.

Lloyds Banking Group to lend up to £1.7bn to East of England businesses in 2019

Lloyds Banking Group has committed to lending up to £1.7bn in 2019 to support business growth in the East of England. Matt Hubbard, Lloyds Banking Group’s Ambassador for the East of England, said: “The East of England has one of the most diverse business communities in the UK. From our advanced technology, software and biomedical businesses in Cambridge and the Silicon Fen to our strengths in agriculture. With up to £1.7bn of lending we’re looking to help businesses throughout the East of England to start up, scale up, trade internationally and ultimately grow.”

Spark EV selected for IM Accelerator to propel transport tech

Spark EV Technology has been chosen for the prestigious Intelligent Mobility (IM) Accelerator programme. The programme aims to create UK leaders in the £900bn global transport systems market. It exists as a partnership between Transport Systems Catapult (TSC) and Wayra UK.

“The Intelligent Mobility programme aims to nurture and scale-up the next generation of UK transport systems leaders, giving them the support they need to deliver data-driven solutions to the most pressing problems facing the world today,” said Gary Stewart, Director, Wayra UK. “Spark’s innovation helps meet the key goal of reducing transport emissions, by accelerating the adoption of electric vehicles through its innovative software.”

Participation in the programme will help Spark commercialise its software and provide it with access to paid proof of concept projects with programme sponsors such as Hyundai and Stagecoach. Start-ups in the transport sector who are interested in applying to the programme can visit the IM Accelerator page here.

Boots acquires Norfolk-based Wiggly-Amps to advance digital healthcare

Boots UK has acquired Wiggly-Amps, a health tech company that delivers hardware and software solutions like panic button software Little Green Button, and Engage Touch, a check-in kiosk screen which allows patients to check themselves in for appointments. Wiggly Amps has been split into two new companies which will be separate entities to Boots UK; Engage Health Systems Ltd. and Little Green Button Ltd.

The founder of Wiggly-Amps, Jon Witte, who is the new MD of Engage Health Systems Ltd, commented: “As the market leader, Boots UK have the scale and reputation to make the best use of this software and we look forward to working with Boots UK to help them fulfil their vision of creating an innovative digital healthcare offer to be the first-choice pharmacy for customers and patients.”

Richard Bradley, Pharmacy Director at Boots UK, added: “At Boots UK we are always looking for ways to develop the role of community pharmacy and make things simpler and quicker for our customers and patients. We have a strong history of innovation – responding to meet the evolving needs of our customers, providing new products and services and supporting our colleagues to deliver these. It’s an exciting time for the future of pharmacy.”

It’s an exciting time for health tech in the East of England, too, as the directors, management team and staff all remain in place and continue to operate the two new businesses from the same offices in North Walsham, Norfolk.

Invest East launched – £1.8m support programme for SMEs in Norfolk and Suffolk

A new Investment Readiness Programme providing business support programme for high-growth SMEs in Norfolk and Suffolk is now open for business. It is a free “investor-led” programme designed to support Norfolk and Suffolk businesses in preparing to raise equity and other forms of finance. SMEs that want to expand or explore investment options can access professional, specialist support. Call the New Anglia Growth Hub on 0300 333 6536 or visit the Invest East website to get started.