Businesses to gain competitive edge through digital innovation

A new project led by Sheffield Hallam University and Barnsley Council will provide free support for businesses in the Sheffield City Region to increase their competitiveness through digital innovations.

Digital Innovation for Growth is a £1.8m, three-year programme, funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

It has been launched to stimulate digital innovation in eligible small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) from across South Yorkshire, Chesterfield, North East Derbyshire, the Derbyshire Dales, Bassetlaw and Bolsover.

The programme will connect regional SMEs to academic expertise and world-class facilities at both Sheffield Hallam University and the two Digital Media Centres at Barnsley Council’s Digital Campus.

The support will be delivered across a host of digital needs, including enhanced cyber-security, improved design, software engineering, data analysis, artificial intelligence, user experience and rapid prototyping.

Alex Prince, head of knowledge exchange and innovation at Sheffield Hallam, said: “The launch of Digital Innovation for Growth is particularly timely with many businesses increasingly working online, seeking new digital solutions as a result of lock down and looking for new remote ways of engaging with their workforce, suppliers, distributors  and clients.

“Digitally driven innovations in product and process development, manufacture and distribution, online marketing and trading are a major driver for improved business competitiveness, survival and growth.”

Eligible SMEs will receive support from a dedicated account manager to help identify areas of their operations where digital technology could help them to improve processes, increase productivity and create safer working environments.

Alongside working with experts from Sheffield Hallam University, businesses will also have access to DMC 02’s state of the art ‘Makerspace Lab’ in Barnsley town centre, due to open mid-September, enabling them to design, prototype and test new products.

Councillor Tim Cheetham, cabinet spokesman for regeneration and culture, said: “This project is coming at just the right time.

“The Makerlab at DMC 02 will allow for digital ideas to be brought to life and put to the test whilst being supported by experts from the university.

“Whilst we want to see new and creative ideas come from the project, we also hope to see businesses and innovators collaborate where possible to bring the best out of each other.

“We’ve seen this work fantastically well before in Barnsley and we expect that the new facilities in the DMC 02 will help to make this happen again.”

The programme is free for businesses to use. It will run alongside other innovation support projects including Sheffield Innovation Programme – an initiative led by Sheffield Hallam University, the University of Sheffield and Sheffield City Region Growth Hub to provide research and innovation based consultancy to SMEs to stimulate growth.

Businesses can access the support by emailing or phoning 0114 225 5000.