Cheshire businesses to benefit from innovation programme

The SMART innovation challenge opens to SMEs across Cheshire and Warrington

Helen Tonks - co-founder of local business Hydraulics Online

Helen Tonks - co-founder of Cheshire business Hydraulics Online

SMEs across Cheshire and Warrington will be supported in bringing a new product or service to market, with the assistance of business innovation experts from Manchester Metropolitan University.

The University has received £1.7million from the European Union European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to deliver the second phase of a 12-week business innovation programme in the region over the next three and a half years.

The SMART Cheshire programme will offer tailored support to entrepreneurs and small businesses across the region to help them develop new products or services and grow. As the programme is fully-funded by the ERDF, there is no cost for business owners to attend the course, providing they meet the eligibility criteria.

Award-winning entrepreneurs who have completed the SMART Cheshire Innovation Challenge include C-Lash founder Codilia Gapare, and Helen Tonks, co-founder with husband Mark, of Hydraulics Online.

C-Lash creates false lashes for people who have lost their natural eyelashes due to medical conditions or treatment, such as chemotherapy, while Hydraulics Online currently exports to more than 130 countries, and has just secured a six-figure contract with a construction company in China.

Speaking about her experience on the programme, Codilia Gapare said: “SMART Cheshire did not only give me the confidence that I needed to take my business forward, it also put me in touch with the Women In Business Network. It was through this network that I won a scholarship to study an MBA at Manchester Metropolitan and this, combined with the continued support from the University, has been instrumental in the success of my business.”

Claire Pattison, Enterprise Fellow at Manchester Metropolitan University, said: “Thanks to the success of our business innovation programme in Cheshire over the past three years, we’re delighted to secure the funding to continue to support small businesses.

“Through this second phase, we’ll engage with 150 businesses in the region, supporting at least 75 of these to launch brand new products or services.

“SMART Cheshire is a practical, interactive programme and it’s open to micro and small to medium-sized businesses in Cheshire and Warrington. It’s a fantastic opportunity for business owners to delve into their product ideas, thoroughly exploring the process from concept to product launch.”

Manchester Metropolitan is now accepting applications from business owners for a place on the programme, which begins in January 2020.

Applicants are invited to apply here: https://www2.mmu.ac.uk/business-school/business/sme-support/smart-cheshire-innovation-programme/

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