Great Exhibition legacy creates jobs and provides innovation support during pandemic

19 May 2021

A legacy project from the Great Exhibition of the North has gone on to support 142 businesses in the last two years, and during the first two waves of the Covid-19 pandemic, to grow regional innovation capacity and create 36 jobs.

The GX Project provided a range of support including one-to-one specialist innovation expertise and grant funding to help businesses expand, develop prototypes, and launch new products and services to market.

Overall, the project has contributed more than £1.5m to the local economy. 

Sarah Green, Chief Executive at NewcastleGateshead Initiative (NGI) said: “The GX project was designed to build on our rich history as an innovative region by providing expert support and tools to help local companies innovate for growth and bring disruptive new ideas to market. Over the course of the project, I’m delighted we’ve been able to help so many innovative businesses fulfill their potential, and further strengthen our position as an innovative and forward-thinking place. At NGI economic growth is at the heart of everything we do and in challenging times it’s so positive to see the impact of the GX project, a legacy that will benefit our region for years to come.”

The GX project, which was delivered by NGI in partnership with the Innovation SuperNetwork, was designed to build on the innovation legacy of the Great Exhibition of the North, which took place across NewcastleGateshead in 2018.

Estelle Blanks, CEO at the Innovation SuperNetwork, said: “The businesses we’ve worked with operate in a range of different sectors and have all brought a potentially market-changing idea to fruition, in many cases creating jobs as they’ve expanded and grown. Innovation is critical for businesses to remain relevant and profitable. This is especially important during such uncertain times, and it’s great to see opportunities have been created and the economy strengthened because of the work we’ve delivered here.”

One business to have benefited from the support provided, includes offshore wind specialists, Kinewell Energy. Through a combination of one-to-one support and a grant, Kinewell has secured further innovation funding and an opportunity to collaborate with Siemens. The company undertook feasibility studies for a potential new-to-market innovative data solution to net-zero energy challenges.

Dr Andrew Jenkins, Managing Director, Kinewell Energy, said: “The insight, support and connections provided by the GX Project have been tailored and targeted to the business areas we needed most help with. The team worked tirelessly to understand who we are, what our mission was, and the specific help we needed to take our business forward.

“The GX Grant allowed us to shape our ideas in partnership with fellow innovative scale-up, Wubbleyou, leading to an ongoing project to deliver the new-to-market solution. The experience has been wholly rewarding, helping us increase our network and profile in the energy sector.”

The GX project has now ended, but there are several business support opportunities open to innovative regional businesses looking for specialist support and access to innovation funding.

The SuperNetwork has grant funding available for eligible SMEs and provides year-round innovation support and access to finance opportunities through the Newcastle Angel Hub.

Part-funding five regional innovation clusters, they also provide expert innovation support to businesses working in key regional sectors: digital (Dynamo), energy (North East Energy Catalyst), healthcare (AHSN), process innovation & manufacturing (NEPIC) and social innovation (VONNE).

In partnership with the Business & IP Centre Newcastle (BIPC), NewcastleGateshead Initiative is providing a free service for SMEs based in the North of Tyne region who have been adversely affected by COVID, helping them to adapt to new challenges and safeguard jobs. Citylife Business Support  includes a programme of online events focus on enabling businesses to develop and implement new models of delivery to help them recover and plan for their future.

The GX project was part funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Growth Programme 2014-20 for England.

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