A new set of grants have been launched for SMEs looking to drive innovation in the North East LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) area.

The grants are part of the GX Project, a legacy of the Great Exhibition of the North designed to support innovations and collaborations among North East SMEs. Initially a two-year business innovation programme, the GX Project awarded a total of 26 grants in 2019 and it has now been extended for a third year into 2020.

Part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and delivered by NewcastleGateshead Initiative (NGI) working in partnership with the Innovation SuperNetwork and Newcastle City Council, the GX Project will now run until December 2020.

The fresh wave of grants will support SMEs looking to develop new products or services. Grants of up to £7,500 are available in this strand and there will also be challenges and events that bring together corporates, SMEs, universities and innovators in the cultural sector.

The GX Project will continue to engage North East LEP SMEs and scaleups to unlock their innovation capacity, propensity to collaborate and ability to develop new products.

Carol Bell OBE, Director of Major Events and Festivals at NewcastleGateshead Initiative, said: “The GX Project has already awarded a total of 26 grants across a range of sectors including creative, digital, software and tech, and we’ve seen this funding help create some amazingly innovative products and services. It’s great news that we are able to provide more of these grants in 2020 and we are looking forward to reviewing the applications that come in.”

One of the successful applicants from round one was Barrier Ex, an award-winning company based in Wallsend. Comprised of four business divisions – Hazardous Area, LED, Electrical

Engineering and Glass Reinforced Plastic (GRP) – Barrier Ex has established itself as an innovator of international repute in each of the sectors in which it operates.

Steven Lee, Managing Director of Barrier Ex, said: “We worked with the GX Project team to secure funding for testing on our GRP Flange Box innovation. The funding was critical in helping us get our prototype ready for commercialisation. The GX Project team took the time to understand our business and were a pleasure to work with.”

To be eligible for the grants, businesses must be a registered company, employ no more than 250 staff and have an annual turnover of less than £44m.

Carol added: “To be successful, applicants should have a strong understanding of a problem or gap in their industry and an outline approach of how to solve it. We are particularly keen to hear from SMEs in Sunderland, South Tyneside and Northumberland, however, the grants are open to all eligible businesses in the North East LEP area.”

The scheme focuses on supporting companies operating in one of regional smart specialisation sectors and areas of opportunities. These are passenger vehicle manufacture; subsea and offshore energy; life sciences and health; creative, digital, software and technology-based services; health innovation; business information modelling and immersive technologies.

There are two information sessions for businesses interested in applying on the 14th and 18th February. The closing date for expressions of interests for the first wave of grants in 2020 is 21st February. It is recommended that all grant-funded projects are limited to a three-month delivery period.

For further information, visit www.GetNorth2018.com or email gx@getnorth2018.com