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Supporting SME innovation

By Newcastle University

Newcastle University is a research-intensive university whose research has global impact. However, we are acutely aware of our role in a UK region where R&D and innovation metrics are generally comparatively low. 

A report in March 2021 showed Gross Expenditure on research and development (R&D) in the North East was the lowest in England and second lowest in the UK (Rhodes and Ward, 2021).

In accepting our responsibility to support regional economic growth and innovation, we have developed several schemes to support innovation by local business.


Arrow - SME innovation support

Since 2018, our Arrow programme has supported businesses to develop new and improved products, services and processes, by providing access to our University’s expertise and assets.

The businesses that have used the scheme identify the most helpful aspects of the scheme as:

  • skills, knowledge and technical expertise of University staff
  • quality and value of research
  • having access to extra skills and capacity
  • gaining insight from an external perspective


As a result of working with the Arrow scheme, businesses expect to create 62 new FTE jobs in the next 12-36 months.


Captured - connecting SMEs and corporates

Newcastle University Business School delivers the Captured scheme to support SMEs in our region..

Captured works on the principle that the best advice for businesses comes from experienced people. It is delivered free of charge and enables owners of small and micro enterprises to develop their management and leadership skills by working with experienced managers from the region’s larger private sector organisations.


IIIP - Intensive Industrial Innovation Project

We also offer longer, deeper innovation support to North East SMEs through the Intensive Industrial Innovation Project scheme, working in partnership with three of our region’s universities: Durham, Northumbria, and Teesside. The IIIP offers part-funded industrial PhD placements to support local firms' R&D needs


National Innovation Centre for Data

The latest addition to our innovation support amplifies the work of the £30M Newcastle University and UK Government funded National Innovation Centre for Data (NICD). NICD was created to help organisations to develop in-house skills that will unlock the economic and innovation potential held in data.

A recent £1.63M investment from the North of Tyne Combined Authority will create an additional workstream that will prioritise more than 200 companies in Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland, enabling them to grow over the next three years by gaining insight from their data.



Having an impact in our region and beyond

Our work to support innovation in the region complements many regional and national initiatives including:

  • contributing towards the North East Local Enterprise Partnership strategy of more and better jobs
  • building on government-backed initiatives and accessing devolved funding to provide dedicated in-region support
  • growing knowledge exchange activity that will support the levelling up agenda
  • creating a future that “lies in those cutting-edge ideas, advanced technologies and rewarding new jobs that will power our economy and transform our society” (Rt Hon Chris Skidmore MP, 2020)


  • RHODES, C. & WARD, M. 2021. Research & Development Spending. In: HOUSE OF COMMONS LIBRARY (ed.).
  • RT HON CHRIS SKIDMORE MP 2020. Levelling up research and innovation right across the United Kingdom. Durham, UK.


Find out more

Looking for support to innovate your business? Find out more about our support for businesses, read our case studies or get in touch to see how we could help you. 



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Header photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash.

Tags: Working with Business