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Collaborations and Accessing Expertise

We look at the full range of innovation funding options for Greater Manchester’s small and medium sized businesses.

More expert innovation insight

When developing new products and services, expertise not currently available in your organisation can be beneficial to unlocking new ideas and progressing innovation.

Funding is available to support collaborations, including partnerships and embedding workers in your business to solve key challenges.

The following funds support collaborations and knowledge transfer opportunities.

Embedded digital researchers applying transformative technologies

To support wider development and use of transformative digital technologies that enable the creation of environmental solutions and catalyse further activity, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) is welcoming applications that focus on utilising the following technologies within an environmental context:

  • Artificial intelligence
  • Digital twinning
  • Engineering biology informatics
  • Quantum technologies
  • Autonomous systems or robotics

Applications must come from a well-established researcher based at a research organisation. The researcher can bid for up to £62,000 and if successful will be embedded in a business to play a key role in enabling the use of these technologies.


Applications must be submitted by the 21st September and more information can be found here.


Knowledge Transfer Partnerships

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) allows businesses to partner with a University, further education institution, a Research and Technology Organisation or a Catapult, to undertake a project that brings new skills and the latest academic thinking into a business to deliver a specific, strategically important project. Applications must show:

  • How the project helps the business
  • How the project fits a strategic aim of the business
  • A genuine market opportunity and route to market for the project outputs
  • Knowledge to be gained in the business during the project
  • How the project is innovative.

If successful, a qualified graduate (known in the project as an ‘associate’) will be embedded in the business for between 12 and 36 months. Businesses can receive up to 67% of eligible project costs covered by grant funding.


Applications must be submitted by 29th September and more information can be found here.

To apply or for more information:

As KTPs require a knowledge partner, reach out to the Innovation team at the Hub, who can help establish links with a suitable organisation.


Greater Manchester AI Foundry

The AI Foundry is a fully funded programme that supports SMEs based in Greater Manchester to explore the potential of AI for their business, and can result in technical assistance in embedding AI in the business.

Split into two phases, the first phase includes a series of workshops to make sure businesses have the skills and knowledge to use AI effectively. Workshops focus on several areas, including:

  • Market opportunities
  • Rapid innovation techniques
  • Prototyping
  • Ethics and data privacy.

The second phase is an opportunity for participating businesses to apply for technical support to develop a prototype for the business (at no cost to the business). Four Universities in the North West (University of Salford, Manchester Metropolitan, University of Manchester and Lancaster University) are delivering the programme, which is only open to Greater Manchester based SMEs. Each University has a team of experts to provide technical and business support.


Click here for more information on how to access this programme


Accessing Expertise

Whilst recognising that outside expertise could be a valuable addition to any business, finding and accessing that expertise can be challenging. Universities and research organisations typically have hundreds, sometimes thousands, of academics employed across several areas including research, commercial work and teaching.

Finding the right expertise when you need is not easy. However, support is available. The Innovation Team at the Greater Manchester Business Growth Hub have roles dedicated exclusively to supporting collaborations between businesses and Universities, and as such, have very good links with academics across a range of areas. Alongside this, the team can provide support sourcing and accessing grant funding.

If collaborations and partnerships that support new product and service design, development or testing are of interest, reach out to the Innovation Team to talk through funding opportunities and next steps.


Call us on 0161 359 3050 or you can email us:

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