Six ways Kent is helping businesses to invest in innovation (without breaking the bank)

Emily Collins
Three women and a man brainstorm together in a collaborative space
Brainstorming, University of Kent

Business innovation is the commercially successful application of ideas – something we’re not short of here at Kent. It can be vital for small and medium-sized businesses to keep up with customer needs and grow market share, but involves taking risks, developing new skills and investing valuable resources. At Kent, we can help with that. Here are some of top ways SMEs can work with us to maximise the return on their investment in innovation.

A woman writes on a wall covered in notes with three colleagues

Partnering with our experts through a leading Government knowledge exchange scheme

We’ve been delivering Knowledge Transfer Partnerships in collaboration with businesses for over 30 years. The highly successful Government scheme enables businesses to access our world-class knowledge to deliver innovative projects with support from a skilled graduate, all at a fraction of what it would normally cost. We have a 100% success rate in applying to Innovate UK for KTP funding which, for SMEs, amounts to 67% of the total project costs. Businesses also benefit from a dedicated team to deliver the strategic project and access to University resources.

A group of students discuss ideas in a meeting room on the Kent campus

Challenging our ambitious students to tackle business problems

Where businesses have a particular challenge in mind, they can enlist the help of our Kent students to tackle it. The Student Impact Challenge programme connects ambitious students to local organisations to solve a problem over a period of two to four weeks. It’s a win-win situation: businesses have the opportunity to bring in a fresh perspective whilst our students develop news skills and gain exposure to real business issues. This year’s challenges range from optimising brand positioning for a local catering company to improving visitor orientation at one of Canterbury’s most popular visitor attractions. Businesses interested taking part in the scheme are encouraged to contact our Careers and Employability Service.

A student in a lab coat and purple gloves stands with her arms crossed in a chemistry lab, looking into the camera

Upskilling employees with Government-subsidised apprenticeships

There are many advantages to employing apprentices at higher and degree level, from attracting and developing staff to increasing productivity. It’s estimated that on average in the UK, the yearly gain for employers is between £2,500 and £18,000 per apprentice during their training period. As they progress, apprentices learn about the latest industry technology and techniques, and develop the skills and knowledge needed to embed these within the organisation and drive innovation. We offer a range of apprenticeship courses tailored to industry needs and have an award-winning apprenticeships team dedicated to working with businesses to help them get started.

Students enjoying themselves as they collect their Employability Points awards

Sponsoring our award-winning Employability Points Scheme

The Employability Points Scheme is a unique and innovative approach towards enhancing student employability, whilst providing employers with access to the most engaged students at Kent. Between August and mid-February, external organisations can offer students  ‘rewards’ through the scheme, in the form of internships, projects, work experience or something else, which take place between June and September. Only those students who have gained sufficient points (by participating in co-curricular activities) can apply, which means that organisations get to work with our most driven students.

A man in t-shirt and jeans presenting in a seminar room to an audience of fellow adult students

Taking the lead on self-development with a cut-price management course

Are you a leader of a small to medium-sized business looking to take it to the next level? Then consider signing up for Kent Business School’s next Help to Grow: Management cohort. The course is accredited by the Small Business Charter and 90% subsidised by the Government, meaning that you get 12 weeks away from the challenges of running a business to invest in your leadership for just £750. Expressions of interest are open now for the next cohort due to begin in February 2024.

Four people in lab coats and globes in a lab environment, smiling at eachother

Accessing funded research support for food and drink businesses

We play a pivotal role in the local innovation ecosystem by working with our networks to bring together ideas, funding, skills and expertise to meet regional needs. Growing Kent and Medway is an excellent example of this in action. Funded by UKRI and led by NIAB, the programme connects industry, scientists, technologies and entrepreneurs to stimulate innovation in the food and drink industry. With research grants of between £5,000 and £250,000 available, it poses an affordable opportunity for businesses to work with Kent researchers in our Biotechnology Hub to explore everything from  alternative ways to manage crop diseases to environmentally-friendly packaging options.

Growing Kent and Medway is just one of the ways we collaborate with partners to channel innovation funding into the regional business community. Our Business Development team work closely with our Academic Divisions and can advise on further opportunities for businesses to connect with us.