Businesses encouraged to apply for invest vouchers

LOCAL businesses are being encouraged to apply for Invest NI’s Innovation Vouchers Programme.

The vouchers have been designed to enable small and medium-sized businesses, including limited companies, sole traders and partnerships, to access knowledge and expertise to develop innovative business solutions.

Encouraging uptake of the scheme, Mid-Ulster MLA Ian McCrea said: “The programme opened on 1st of October and will close again at midnight on 31 October 2012.

“The programme provides a voucher of up to £4000 for eligible businesses to engage with one of the 41 universities, colleges and other publicly funded research organizations throughout Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.”

“A business may apply for up to three vouchers for different projects. A 2nd or 3rd voucher can be applied for once the previous project is completed and the voucher has been redeemed. It is only possible to have one ‘live voucher’ at a time.”

The Innovation Voucher Programme is open to: All Northern Ireland small enterprises and those medium-sized enterprises that have not received assistance through Invest NI’s R&D programme in the past five years.

A small enterprise is defined as a business or (if part of a group) a group of businesses in which the total number of full-time employees in the business (or the entire group) is less than 50 and has either an annual turnover and/or an annual Balance Sheet total not exceeding €10m.

A medium-sized enterprise is defined as a business or (if part of a group) a group of businesses in which the total number of full-time employees in the business (exceeds 50 and) is less than 250 and has either an annual turnover not exceeding £50m or balance sheet total not exceeding £43m.

Applications for Innovation Vouchers are accepted during a number of open call periods throughout the year and will be open again from 01 – 28 February 2013 & 01 – 30 April 2013. You can apply for a voucher as a single business, or you can apply in partnership with one or more businesses (to a maximum of 10 businesses) if there is a common problem to be addressed. This will enable the partner businesses to pool their vouchers for one large project. Prior to submitting a pooled application please contact Claire Herron.

You can apply for an Innovation Voucher by downloading a word version of the application form and e-mailing it to innovation vouchers@investni.com. Alternatively you can post the form to Innovation Vouchers, Invest NI, 7th Floor, Bedford Square, Bedford Street, BELFAST BT2 7ES.

The application should clearly demonstrate the innovative nature of the project and the expertise required to provide a solution. Where there is a solution available from the private sector or from other Invest NI support mechanisms, it is unlikely that an innovation voucher will be awarded.

Mr McCrea concluded: “I would encourage those businesses that feel they are eligible to make the effort to apply and avail of any assistance they can.”