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From Wig-Makers to Cancer Treatments – How Arrow has helped small businesses to innovate

By Newcastle University
Meeting with Arrow

Over the last four years, the Arrow programme has helped over 150 businesses to step into the future.

From collaborating with wig-makers to teaming up with a service that helps families during the grieving process – Arrow supports businesses by connecting them with expertise from across the University, strengthening our local economy along the way.

Arrow has been able to offer this support to SMEs thanks to part-funding through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). 

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What is Arrow?

Growing a small business brings a variety of challenges, but enterprises don’t have to do it all alone.

Innovation is a key factor in economic growth, and Arrow aims to boost the innovation capacity of small businesses by giving access to world leading researchers and facilities at Newcastle University, along with wider collaboration links to regional networks.

The Arrow programme provides a range of support to help businesses grow and equip themselves with the tools they need to succeed on their innovation journeys.

This support includes:

  • a dedicated team of innovation practitioners
  • support for innovative start-ups
  • help with research and development
  • proof of concept and validation
  • specialist data science expertise
  • access to state-of-the-art research facilities and equipment

Arrow is part-funded through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

What has Arrow achieved?

Throughout the project, Arrow has been a gateway for small to medium-sized businesses to access world-class facilities and university expertise. It breaks down barriers, offering bespoke support and advice, allowing companies to test-drive the relationship to ensure a good fit.

Over 150 businesses have benefitted from the programme, whether through access to research, university experts, facilities or match funding to accelerate product development and launches, or access to wider networks, long-term collaborators and collaborative bids.

An independent assessment has forecasted that – within the next three years – Arrow will have:

  • created 143 new jobs
  • developed 53 new products or services
  • increased private investment by £2.6m
  • Increased turnover by £16.9m 

Our vision is to make a difference both in the region and around the world.

Arrow has stimulated research and development across the whole region, a key ingredient in bolstering growth and employment. Furthermore, the long-term nature of Arrow’s successes will continue to have an impact on the economic and social make-up of the North East for generations to come.

How has Arrow supported regional small to medium-sized enterprises?

Arrow helps a wide range of small to medium-sized businesses to innovate and progress to meet their goals.

Some of the businesses the programme has collaborated with include:


LightOx is a Newcastle-based company that develops new treatments for cancer. Arrow matched LightOx with university experts to test the effectiveness of its compounds on the growth of yeast species.

Wonderful Wig Company

The Wonderful Wig Company is a Newcastle-based purpose-built hair-loss studio for the people of the North East - the first of its kind. Arrow helped Wonderful Wig to understand the well-being benefits of wigs to those who have lost their hair to life changing events such as cancer.




Armatrex utilises expanding foam polymers for use in emergency response casts, supports, and splints. Arrow collaborated with Armatrex to develop and lab test a protype inflatable splint to support injured limbs in the field. ArmaTrex’s products are now being actively deployed and are in operation and being used by the Ukraine Special Forces Ops Team on the front line.


Yu Cook

Arrow worked with Yu Cook – a Newcastle-based start up – to investigate the nutritional benefit of cooking with Protein Pod, their patented product. Further research considered the use of sustainable food-grade materials to inform their design.


The first of its kind in the world, Settld is a solution to the added stress of end-of-life admin when a loved one has died. Arrow directly helped Settld to fund the development of their minimum viable product and match the company with expert developers to ensure that Settld got the best service they could for their funding.



Nebula Labs

Nebula Labs is a small technology company that specialises in mobile app development and bespoke software. The Arrow programme has helped to develop their data expertise by matching them with experts at the National Innovation Centre for Data so they could launch an innovative new transport monitoring system.


FYTO Ltd is a Newcastle-based start-up that uses hydroponic vertical farming to bring an ultra-local supply of low-carbon food. Arrow connected staff at FYTO with academics who could help them understand the best lighting to use to enable the optimum growth of their plants.




Follow more inspirational Arrow stories and other ways we’re working with different organisations on our website.

What is next for Arrow?

Collaboration is key to innovation and success, and Arrow is actively breaking down the barriers between higher education and small businesses.

As a result of the programme’s success over the last four years, the University is currently working on plans to extend and expand the scheme with our four partner universities in the North East and are looking for funding to support this.

This will create greater potential for small and medium-sized enterprises to access an even wider pool of researchers, experts, academics, and facilities across the whole region.

Exciting times lie ahead.

Working with Newcastle University

We are always open to hear from businesses who are keen to collaborate with the University and take the next steps on their innovation journey. We will also ensure we let you know when the next version of the Arrow scheme for SMEs is launched.

Get in touch to register your interest.


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