Small businesses in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire will be able to access free productivity support as a result of a new £7.1m programme being run by three local universities.

‘Productivity Through Innovation’ is a three-year collaborative programme involving the University of Derby, Nottingham Trent University and The University of Nottingham, which will provide support to 181 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire regions.

£3.5m funding is being awarded to the three universities via the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), using funds secured by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), with an additional £1.5m being invested in the project by the universities. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations.

The project is being led by the Graduate School at the University of Nottingham and will focus on enabling businesses to improve their competitiveness and productivity through utilising the knowledge, skills and technology of the three universities through an initial academic led diagnostic process.

Productivity challenges will be addressed through innovation support including postgraduate and undergraduate placements, management and leadership workshops and academic support designed to help businesses innovate, explore new ideas and offering unprecedented access to university expertise and talent.

Professor Chris Gerada, Associate Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Industrial Strategy, Business Engagement and Impact, at the University of Nottingham said, “This programme represents an exciting opportunity for businesses to tap into the high-level skills available at the three universities and to examine their businesses and how innovation and support can help enhance productivity.

“It builds upon our very successful and established Postgraduate Placement Scheme which has just delivered its 1000th placement which have largely been delivered with local SMEs in the East Midlands.”

Professor Warren Manning, Pro Vice-Chancellor Innovation and Dean of Engineering & Technology at University of Derby, said “This major investment shows the commitment of the three universities in the D2N2 region to engage with and support small and medium sized companies who are the cornerstone of the UK economy.

“This new programme will allow us to work intensively with local companies supporting them to become more productive. The project will grow long-term relationships between academia and industry with benefits in terms of employment opportunities and economic growth for the region”.

Nigel Wright, Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research and Innovation at Nottingham Trent University, said: “This is a really exciting opportunity to meet with new businesses and support their ideas for innovation. It is our hope and intention that many of these companies will start an ongoing relationship with the university that could provide interesting opportunities for knowledge exchange, graduate employment and experiential teaching and learning while also supporting local economic growth.”