The Co-Innovate programme is a cross border research and innovation (R&I) initiative funded under the European INTERREG VA Programme. The programme aims to increase the proportion of SMEs engaged in cross-border research and innovation in the Interreg eligible region of Northern Ireland, Border Region of Ireland and Western Scotland. The programme brings together these regions’ key development agencies to deliver a programme aligned with each government’s strategic priorities. In Northern Ireland key elements of Co-innovate will be delivered by Enterprise NI and its member Local Enterprise Agencies. In the Border Region of Ireland this support will be delivered by the Local Enterprise Offices in Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan and Louth.
It is widely recognised that innovation is a critical driver to competiveness and growth. A survey carried out by InterTradeIreland across the eligible region showed that nearly 50% of SMEs are not innovation active. Each of the three jurisdictions aim to increase business expenditure on R&I and increase the number of firms innovating. The Co-Innovate programme intends to complement and support this aim and will target SMEs in the manufacturing and tradable services sector.
The new partnership, led by InterTradeIreland, has developed an integrated programme of support and will run until early 2022. There are five key strands of activity that will engage with over 1,408 SMEs providing education and capability development support tailored to their needs.
Strand 1 – An SMEs first formal engagement with the Co-Innovate programme will be to undertake a newly developed R&I diagnostic toolkit the ‘Innovation Ready Reckoner’. This will be conducted to assess the company’s current position in terms of innovation. A series of workshops will be delivered at different times and locations throughout the first 3 years of the programme. They will be delivered by Innovation Experts familiar with the challenges facing SMEs.
Strand 2 – Successful companies will undertake a detailed Business Status Review. After a selection process, companies will progress to a comprehensive Innovation Audit.
Strand 3 – Enterprise-specific action plans will be designed for each company progressing to Strand 3. These action plans will concentrate on developing Research & Innovation capabilities. Up to 10 days intensive mentoring will be provided to address specific challenges.
Strand 4 – Companies will have the opportunity to engage in a cross-border R&I partnership involving their company, a research institute and an intern over a 12 month period; and
Strand 5 – Sector-specific networks and partnerships involving enterprises and research institutes will be established.
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