Business support

€16.6m programme launched to support SME innovation

Small to medium enterprises (SMEs) in some of the most fragile areas of western Scotland are among those set to benefit from a new €16.6 million programme to encourage research and innovation.

The five year Co-Innovate programme is supported by the European Union’s INTERREG VA programme and managed by the Special EU programmes Body.

In Scotland it will encourage and support innovation in SMEs in Argyll and Bute, Lochaber, Skye, the Outer Hebrides, Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway. It also covers Northern Ireland and the border counties of Ireland.

The initiative brings together key development agencies to deliver the programme, which is aligned with each government’s strategic priorities, led by cross-border body InterTradeIreland in partnership with Scottish Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), Enterprise Northern Ireland, East Border Region and Local Enterprise Offices in the border region of Ireland.

The Scotland element of the programme was launched today (Monday 18 September) in Dunstaffnage near Oban by Michael Russell, Scottish Government Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland’s Place in Europe.

Mr Russell said: “SMEs play a crucial role in Scotland’s economy, particularly in many rural and fragile areas where they have an additional role in strengthening community resilience.

“Innovation, the development and commercialisation of new ideas, is key to the success and growth of these businesses, so it’s vital that we continue to support and encourage this.

“That’s what Co-Innovate is all about and I very much welcome its launch today in Scotland. I also welcome the partnership approach being taken to its delivery and the opportunities this will create for cross-border collaborations.”

As part of the Co-Innovate programme locally based expertise from innovation practitioners will work with business networks, HIE and SE offices and local authority Business Gateway staff.

There will also be mentoring and consultancy, grants for research and innovation with support from academic institutions, and for SMEs to engage an intern for cross border collaborative projects.

It is estimated Co-Innovate will boost total company turnover across all eligible regions by around nine million pounds and create 78 jobs over its five years.

Gina McIntyre Chief Executive Officer of the Special EU Programmes Body, said: “The Co-Innovate project will allow the region to make a significant contribution to the achievement of the European Union’s 2020 target of increased investment in research and innovation.

“The region, as a whole, is still characterised by low levels of innovation activity. Cross-border co-operation can however be used to help address this issue, by encouraging new partnerships between business and relevant research institutions. By working together through the Co-Innovate project, on a cross-border basis, participating businesses will become ‘innovation active’ and thereby more competitive and profitable.”

Match-funding for Co-Innovate has been provided by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation in Ireland, the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland, and with contributions from  Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Scottish Enterprise this will enable £4 million of innovation support to businesses within the eligible regions in Scotland.

Neil Ryan, Co-Innovate Programme Director, said: “Every company’s innovation needs are different so each company’s journey through Co-Innovate will be unique. Over 1,400 businesses will receive support at Co-Innovate workshops over the next number of years. These workshops are aimed at demystifying innovation and helping firms understand how it can drive their company’s growth and profitability. 

“Companies who complete our workshops and subsequent assessments will be selected to take part in advanced programme supports. These advanced supports are designed to help develop detailed innovation delivery plans: bringing ideas to fruition.”

More information on the Co-Innovate Programme is available at



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