More than 100 SMEs to access £5.1m innovation fund

More than 100 Liverpool city region SMEs will get access to a new £5.1m fund that will offer support from three universities for new innovations. Tony McDonough reports

Innovation, digital, VR, SMEs, technology
Horizons will offer support to city region SMEs for new innovations


Three Liverpool city region universities will support more than 100 SMEs with their innovation efforts as part of a new £5.1m programme.

Funded by the Liverpool City Region’s £44m UK Shared Prosperity Fund allocation, the Horizons programme will see a partnership between the University of Liverpool’s VEC (Virtual Engineering Centre), Liverpool John Moores University and Edge Hill University.

Launched by Metro Mayor Steve Rotherham, Horizons is the first innovation support programme in the city region funded by the UKSPF. It will prioritise supporting businesses providing sustainable practices and technologies.

SMEs accessing the support, via a streamlined paperless process, can also apply for capital grant funding to further accelerate innovation.

Since 2016, the VEC, led projects that have helped organisations across Liverpool city region contribute more than £121m GVA to the local economy, creating more than 1,400 jobs across multiple businesses.

Horizons was developed following consultation with SMEs and in partnership with the Combined Authority and the city’s Universities.

Mr Rotheram said: “SMEs really are the cornerstone of our business community. Together, they account for a massive 99% of all businesses in our region and have a crucial role to play in helping to diversify our economy.

“Fortunately for us, we’re home to some of the country’s leading universities, who possess the expertise and world-class facilities that can really help our SMEs to unleash their full potential.

“Horizon is the first innovation support programme of its kind that directly connects our region’s SMEs to our world leading institutions.

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“It’s my hope that this partnership will help more entrepreneurs and innovators to achieve their ambitions and, more crucially, help us to catapult our area to the forefront of UK science and innovation.”

Professor Andrew Levers, executive director of the Institute of Digital Engineering and Autonomous Systems (IDEAS), added: “The University of Liverpool has set out a clear and compelling vision for regional impact under our Liverpool 2031 strategy.

“Horizons will help deliver our vision to drive prosperity in the city region by bringing the benefit of our ground-breaking research to local businesses.”

To find out more about Horizons and to apply for support, visit

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