New cross-border Co-Innovate scheme to benefit more than 1,400 SMEs

7 Sep 2017

From left: Neil Ryan, Co-Innovate programme director); Culture Minister Heather Humphreys, TD; Gina McIntyre, chief executive, SEUPB; and Dr Andrew McCormick, permanent secretary, economy department, Northern Ireland. Image: Aurora Event Photography

The Co-Innovate scheme aims to boost collaboration between small and medium enterprises across the border counties in Ireland, Northern Ireland and parts of western Scotland.

The five-year €16.6m Co-Innovate project was launched by Culture Minister Heather Humphreys, TD, in Monaghan today (7 September). It was the first funding offer to be announced under the EU’s Interreg VA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).

Co-Innovate is one of 60 funding schemes across the EU designed to overcome issues arising from borders.

Embedding a culture of innovation in businesses

Minister 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.”

She described initiatives like Co-Innovate as “central to this goal, providing one-to-one help and mentoring for smaller companies to help embed a culture of innovation in their businesses”.

CEO of the SEUPB, Gina McIntyre, said the initiative will hopefully invigorate SMEs in border areas. “The Co-Innovate project will allow the region to make a significant contribution to the achievement of the European Union’s 2020 target of increased investment in research and innovation.

“The region, as a whole, is still characterised by low levels of innovation activity. Cross-border cooperation can, however, be used to help address this issue, by encouraging new partnerships between business and relevant research institutions.

“By working together through the Co-Innovate project, on a cross-border basis, participating businesses will become ‘innovation active’ and thereby more competitive and profitable,” added McIntyre, stressing the vital importance of innovation in order for your average SME to see growth.

Training tailored to each SME’s unique needs

Tools and support will be provided to help businesses compete and stand out from the crowd, with free workshops, business health checks, project management placement and one-to-one mentoring just some of the services on offer.

Co-Innovate programme director Neil Ryan explained that every company’s journey through the programme will be unique, with training tailored to match their specific business needs. He continued: “Over 1,400 businesses will receive support at Co-Innovate workshops over the next number of years.

“These workshops are aimed at demystifying innovation and helping firms understand how it can drive their company’s growth and profitability.”

The scheme aims to bring together the different regions’ key development agencies to deliver a programme that lines up with each country’s unique strategic priorities.

Co-Innovate is led by InterTradeIreland in partnership with Enterprise Northern Ireland, East Border Region, Local Enterprise Offices in the border region, Scottish Enterprise, and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects