BUSINESSES in Western Scotland have benefitted from a prestigious scheme to support innovative SMEs. Over €1.3m in direct grant support has been awarded to companies in the region to develop new services and products through collaborative projects.
The Co-Innovate programme, supported by the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme, and managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), was launched in 2017 to increase the number of businesses collaborating with partners in other regions, encourage innovation, and help ambitious SMEs grow.
Over the course of the five year programme, Co-Innovate – led by InterTradeIreland – has helped over 1,400 companies in Western Scotland, Northern Ireland and the border region of Ireland. As well as supporting projects with funding, Co-Innovate has also provided mentorship, innovation workshops and expert advice.
Renewable Oil Services is among a number of firms to benefit from support provided by Co-Innovate. Based in Ayrshire, the firm is a leading supplier of oil products and oil exchange services for the wind turbine industry, using its specialised oil pump trucks and offshore oil pump units to carry out gearbox and hydraulic exchanges on offshore and onshore wind turbines across the UK.
Through the Co-Innovate programme, the company partnered with the Institute of Technology in Sligo, Ireland to successfully develop a technical solution for retaining the heat of oil during an exchange process undertaken in cold weather conditions, enabling the company to work throughout the winter months.
Barry Sutherland, CEO at Renewable Oil Services, says the support from the programme enabled the company to accommodate more customer demand and access new export markets:
“Previously we operated from spring to autumn, with limited time available to support the increase in customer demand that we have seen over the years. Thanks to Co-Innovate and our partnership with the Institute of Technology in Sligo, we can operate in colder climates, accommodating customer demand year-round and now have the opportunity to target new markets abroad.”
Scottish Enterprise is the delivery partner for Co-Innovate. Speaking on the positive impact of the initiative on businesses in cross-border areas, Stacey Neville, Scottish Enterprise said:
“The collaborations the Co-Innovate programme supports are at the cutting edge of technology in a wide variety of sectors, from the development of organic fertiliser from waste, to AI software for educators, to technology such as what has been developed by Renewable Oil Services to support the wind turbine industry.
“For the past five years, Co-Innovate has played a key role in empowering SMEs to innovate and to boost growth through collaboration in cross-border areas. The lasting legacy of the programme will be seen in the ongoing success of businesses that embrace the opportunities of collaboration on research and innovation with academic and industry partners.”
The Co-Innovate partnership is led by InterTradeIreland and includes Scottish Enterprise, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, Enterprise Northern Ireland, the Local Enterprise Offices in the border counties of Ireland, and East Border Region Ltd.