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Small science offers big opportunity for regional businesses

 Small science offers big opportunity for regional businesses

A unique opportunity for forward thinking companies in Yorkshire to develop new products or processes based on latest emerging technologies is being launched by the region's Nanofactory.

The Nanofactory - which brings together nanotechnology experts from the universities of Leeds, Bradford, Huddersfield, Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam and York - is looking to form partnerships with companies interested in exploring new business opportunities based on latest advances in nanotechnology.

The project is part-funded by a £1m investment from the European Regional Development Fund as part of the Yorkshire and Humber ERDF Programme that is making substantial investments over the next 3 years to create jobs and increase business competitiveness in the region.

Put simply, nanotechnology is 'small-scale science' that enables  the unique properties and behaviours of particles and materials at this nanoscale to be applied in a diverse range of sectors - from medical device companies and chemicals firms through to engineering, food technology and construction businesses.

However, financing research and development to drive nanotechnology innovation forward is often out of reach for SMEs, and particularly so in the current economic climate. The region's SME spend on R&D is three times lower than the national average.

Partnerships with Nanofactory universities will allow SMEs to explore this new area of technology and potentially apply for a range of external funding opportunities - for example European Union funding, and Technology Strategy Board grants. 

"Nanofactory connects the knowledge and expertise of academic researchers with the needs and challenges of companies in the region. This offers a powerful combination and driver for innovation. As a result new fundamental and applied research programmes will be stimulated and leading university researchers will seek out funding and partnerships to deliver these," says Nanofactory's director, Professor Richard Williams.

"This type of research based activity goes way beyond the usual consultancy support that SMEs can access at universities and it aims to provide much more than short term problem solving. Nanotechnology doesn't have to be the domain of large companies and multinationals - there are opportunities for all sizes of company."

The project will launch a series of sector-specific workshops around the region in early 2010, at which the benefits of new nanotechnology advances will be outlined and discussed with delegates. The events will provide a forum for companies, those in the supply chain and technology experts to brainstorm ideas for future R&D possibilities. Ideas that are generated may form the basis of grant applications to appropriate funding bodies. 

 "The project is itself an enterprising approach to several key challenges, and plays to the strengths of each of the partners", says Trevor Shaw, Yorkshire Forward's executive director of finance. "For the region, this is a unique opportunity to boost spend on R&D and for universities, it will allow them to devise and deliver new research programmes that have real impact. Most importantly, for SMEs, it enables them to leverage technology expertise in the region that can underpin future business opportunities to secure their future competitiveness." 

For further information: 

Please contact the University of Leeds Press Office on +44 (0)113 343 4031 or email pressoffice@leeds.ac.uk

For ERDF Press enquiries please contact: Richard Holmes, ERDF Communications Manager, Yorkshire Forward on 01709 766485 or 07870 525950

Notes to Editors:

Yorkshire and The Humber ERDF Programme 2007-2013
The regional ERDF Programme, approved in December 2007 was launched in February 2008. The programme is managed by Yorkshire Forward on behalf of a regional partnership including the National Government, European Commission and Regional bodies.

The programme provides access to up to €583 million from the European Regional Development Fund to invest in the region by 2013 with €271m for South Yorkshire and €312m for the rest of the region. South Yorkshire has extra resources to help with its transition from its earlier Objective 1 status.

The European Regional Development Fund is one of the European Union's major financial instruments for supporting regional economic development across Europe. It is provided to support the European Union's cohesion policy that seeks to redress imbalances in development between regions. It is used to support projects that can help local economies address the challenges of globalisation and contribute to delivering Europe's Lisbon Strategy of growth and jobs.

Further information about the ERDF Programme in Yorkshire and The Humber is available at www.yorkshire-forward.com/erdf

European Regional Development Fund

The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) was set up in 1975 to stimulate economic development in less prosperous regions of the European Union (EU) and to act as a significant instrument with which the EU can support its Cohesion Policy.

As EU membership has grown, ERDF has developed into a major instrument for helping to redress regional imbalances. The Department for Communities and Local Government (CLG) manages ERDF in England.

Between 2007 and 2013, England benefits from an investment of €3.2 billion (approx £2.5 bn) of ERDF. It is delivered by regional programmes in each English region, managed by the Regional Development Agency. England also receives €177 million ERDF for two national cross-border co-operation programmes with France, Flanders and the Netherlands and another €193.8 million is available to the United Kingdom for participating in three trans-national co-operation programmes across the North West Europe, North Sea and Atlantic areas.

ERDF is directed at projects offering substantial benefits which meet the needs of an area and would not take place without a grant. It is used to provide help towards the project costs with grants set at a minimum level required to allow the project to go ahead. As a general rule, however, the EU contributes no more than 50% of the eligible cost with the rest of the funding, known as 'match funding' coming from other public sources.

Information about the European Union's support for regions policy is available at www.ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/index_en.htm

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