CUMBRIAN companies gained valuable insights into accessing work and funding opportunities in the defence and security sectors at a business event jointly hosted by iSH (Industrial Solutions Hub), FIS360 and the Defence and Security Accelerator (DASA).
Attendees at the ‘Innovation for the future – right here, right now’ event held at Rosehill Theatre, Whitehaven, were given advice on how to win business and access funding opportunities.
During the event held on November 8, FIS360 CEO Dr Frank Allison, iSH Managing Director John Maddison and DASA North West Innovation Partner Jonathan Jones gave presentations and formed a panel to answer questions from local businesses.
Cumbria-based FIS360, a technology commercialisation company which designs and delivers innovation programmes aimed at helping SMEs and organisations, launched the successful Game Changers programme in 2015.
The initiative challenges SMEs, research organisations, large companies and academic institutions to find solutions for organisations within the nuclear industry, promoting innovation and collaboration among local companies. In recent years, the programme has been adapted to other industries.
Frank said: “We help open doors to small businesses, research organisations and universities to work with challenge owners and enable them to either adapt or create new ways of working to come up with solutions to industry problems.
“We have built an ecosystem which connects all these elements and makes it easier to work collaboratively, ensuring everybody has the necessary support, both financially and professionally.
“By reaching out to us, they can use our extensive network of contacts. We enable them to make contact with the right people, the best around, to help boost their own business.”
Jonathan raised awareness of the many funding channels open across the defence and security sectors, including The Defence Technology Exploitation Programme which provides UK SMEs with 50 per cent grant funding on projects up to the value of £1m.
He said: “At DASA, we find and fund exploitable innovation to support UK defence and security quickly and effectively, and support the prosperity of UK businesses.
“There is a constant stream of opportunities available to Cumbrian SMEs, academia and larger organisations to work with DASA and other defence organisations. We’re keen to make more businesses and individuals aware of the funding and business support available so we can keep promoting the capabilities of local companies.
“We also want more businesses to know that, although they may typically work in different industries, the expertise and skills they have are transferable to the defence and security sectors so we would always encourage them to find out more.”
Launched earlier this year, iSH was created to promote collaboration between industry, SMEs, academia and other organisations across Cumbria to provide a wide range of employment, skills and training opportunities which in turn will regenerate local communities.
John said: “iSH promotes collaboration, innovation and diversification at every corner, and bringing those three things together in an event like this will help support local businesses and organisations and provide opportunities which give them the tools to grow.
“This event gives local people insights into different sectors, but ones which are complimentary of the capabilities which already exist across the region.
“iSH is about creating local employment opportunities and that comes with growth at its core; personal growth and the subsequent growth of organisations, which ultimately leads to economic growth to benefit the whole region.”
Representatives from a variety of sectors spanning Cumbria and beyond attended the event, with opportunities to discuss opportunities with the panel on a one-to-one basis.
Dick Monaghan, Business Development Director for Nuclear at Delkia, said: “We were already aware of the likes of iSH, DASA and FIS360 and its Game Changers programme, but what was so good about this event was the level of detail and information provided about the funding and support which will help us to more easily identify opportunities in the future.
“The event also brought us in touch with three local suppliers who we are now exploring possible synergies with.”
Martin Lewis, Commercial Director at engineering company Forth, said: “We have recently started working in the defence and security sectors and it was very reassuring to find out that there are a lot more opportunities open to small, independent businesses like ourselves.”