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SMEs' ground-breaking projects tap into university talent and technology

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Published on 05 June 2019

SMEs tap into university talent & technology for ground-breaking projects
SMEs tap into university talent & technology for ground-breaking projects

Drawing on our University’s academic expertise, cutting-edge technology, graduate internship scheme and research-based experience, five regional SMEs will work collaboratively over the next five months to development their products and technologies.

The projects include using augmented reality software to identify the provenance of our food, a computerised behaviour change prototype to benefit health and wellbeing, to tracking and analysing people and traffic movements in the built environment using cameras and machine learning software.

The funding has been provided through the GX programme, a two-year business innovation programme part of the legacy from last year’s Great Exhibition of the North. It is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and delivered by NewcastleGateshead Initiative (NGI), in partnership with the Innovation SuperNetwork. One of the key strands is Collaborate - a research and development scheme, brokering research partnerships worth up to £11,000 each between SMEs and research institutions, so they can work together on innovative projects.

University staff and researchers from Computer Science, Advanced Manufacturing, Psychology, Business and Games Software Development will collaborate with Almere Ltd, Nosebleed Interactive Ltd, Schoolhere Ltd, Medintu and Tender Connect, SMEs who successfully bid for GX funding.

Sunderland graduates are also benefitting, after a number of short-term internships became available through the University’s in-house recruitment agency Uni4Talent. The project provides them with an opportunity to develop their skills and raise their employment prospects.

“We’re delighted to be a deliverer on the framework of GX Collaborate, achieving almost a third of the funding available after demonstrating our drive in innovation and proven track record of working with SMEs,” explains Professor Alastair Irons, Academic Dean for Faculty of Technology at the University of Sunderland.

“These types of projects show how responsive we are: able to translate and address business problems and deliver the best solutions in a short timeframe. It demonstrates how Enterprise and Innovation at the University works.

“Our job is to understand companies’ problems then propose bespoke solutions based on our University’s capabilities. We are able to do that, as we have a good grasp of what our academic expertise is and how it’s relevant to individual organisations.”

Alastair added: “Not only will these collaborations deliver innovation that will benefit the way we live and work, they also develop the skills and experience of our own university staff and students through shared knowledge, which feeds back into our own curriculum.”

GX Collaborate was developed to engage North East LEP SMEs and scale-ups to unlock their innovation capacity, propensity to collaborate and ability to develop new products.

Carol Bell, formerly, Executive Director of the Great Exhibition of the North, said: “Innovation is key to the success of any business, and ‘GX Collaborate’ aims to help SMEs to access the best academic expertise, leading edge research and technology to address specific business problems through innovation, and ultimately to accelerate the growth of their businesses.”

One of those SME’sthat has been successful in securing funding is Medintu, a Sunderland-based digital healthcare organisation that is working in partnership with the University of Sunderland.  

Medintu CEO, Reddy SV, said: “As a small organisation, we knew we wanted to access academic expertise, but we had no idea where to start. Through the Collaborate scheme, NGI was able to understand our strengths and needs, and match us to the right university, bringing the right people around the table.

“Our project is complex and requires a multidisciplinary approach, and NGI’s support has helped us to shape our partnership project with clear and deliverable objectives and timelines. We’re looking forward to collaborating with the Sunderland team.”



The GX Project builds on the platform created by the Great Exhibition of the North GX Collaborate to promote the region, local businesses and boost innovation-led economic growth.

Collaborate is a dedicated workstream of GX and provides the opportunity for SMEs to collaborate with a research institution to develop a new product/service/process.

The GX project focuses on supporting companies operating in one of regional smart specialisation sectors and areas of opportunities: Passenger vehicle manufacture; Subsea and Offshore Energy, Life Sciences and Health; Creative, Digital, Software and Technology based services, Health innovation, business information modelling and immersive technologies.

For further information, visit www.GetNorth2018.com/business/gx-project


About GX

  • The GX project is the legacy project of the Great Exhibition of the North, launching at the Northern Powerhouse Business Summit.
  • The GX project provides a range of opportunities and bespoke support for North East SMEs and scaleups to innovate.
  • The GX project includes: a programme of workshops and events for SMEs to better understand and exploit information on emerging trends and sector developments; 5 innovation challenges (in collaboration with Innovation SuperNetwork) where local SMEs will work with corporates and innovation support partners to develop solutions to pre-defined challenges; business grants for specialist consultancy services to develop new products and services; and a set of collaborative partnerships between SMEs and research organisations to increase the Research & Development capability of local SMEs.
  • The Northern Powerhouse Business Summit took place 4-6 July 2018, with the ‘Emerging Tech’ events series taking place between June and November 2018 and was the central experience for businesses during the Great Exhibition of the North.
  • The GX project is delivered in partnership with Innovation SuperNetwork and Newcastle City Council.
  • For more information visit www.GetNorth2018.com/business/gx-project.


About NewcastleGateshead Initiative

NewcastleGateshead Initiative is a destination management and marketing agency; a public-private partnership supported by Gateshead and Newcastle City Councils, working with around 170 private sector partner organisations across NewcastleGateshead and the wider region.

NewcastleGateshead Initiative is supported by a board offering expertise from a range of sectors and professions. We also work with a wide range of partners, stakeholders and businesses, who share our ambition to inspire people to visit and to live, learn, work and invest in and around NewcastleGateshead.

o   Our marketing & communications team works to promote and position NewcastleGateshead as a vibrant tourism destination, through targeted campaigns nationally and internationally. Our visitor information team helps ensure visitors have the best possible experience when they’re here, providing information and support.

o   Our Culture Team work with partners across the destination to bring together NewcastleGateshead’s cultural offer and deliver some of our most popular festivals and events, including the NewcastleGateshead Winter Festival.

o   Our Convention Bureau uses local knowledge and expertise to help attract major conferences, meetings and events to NewcastleGateshead and the surrounding area. It provides a free service including, venue sourcing and accommodation booking, support with transport and entertainment for delegates.

o   Our Invest Newcastle team helps businesses locate, expand and flourish in Newcastle, providing a range of services to make it easy to realise their ambitions for growth.