Innovate to Elevate: funds offered for local business innovation

Four Babergh and Mid Suffolk businesses were the first to receive an innovation boost through a unique Innovate to Elevate accelerator programme led by the University of Essex in partnership with Babergh and Mid Suffolk District Councils.

Digital services agency Orbital Media, architectural and interior design practice Project Orange, school photography specialists Braiswick Photographic and fine wine merchants 92 or More have each been offered access to up to £10,000 worth of academic expertise to help find solutions to their business challenges and help them grow.

Collaborations include:

Orbital Media: Developing DementiaSim – a new Proof of Concept platform supporting carers of those with dementia

Orbital Media, in Stowmarket, create digital service delivery solutions in software development, AI, app development, user experience and software design.

Partnering with Dr Mary Kennedy and colleagues from Essex’s School of Health and Social Care, this project will develop a series of films for Orbital’s proposed DementiaSim platform and create a Proof of Concept app which aims to support those caring for people with dementia in navigating everyday situations.

Hayden Allen-Vercoe, Chief Operating Officer from Orbital Media comments: “DementiaSim incorporates true to life footage, presented in a fully immersive 360 VR format. The video content is fully interactive, allowing for users to make decisions and see the outcomes, be them good or bad – we retain 80% of what we see, compared to 20% of what we read and only 10% of what we hear.

Our ambition is to help prepare thousands of families for the debilitating onset of the disease, by providing clear guidance around the right protocol.”

Project Orange: Encouraging more eco-friendly behaviours via community engagement

Project Orange is an architectural and interior design practice, and since moving their HQ to Lavenham, they’ve become engaged with the local community, including the Neighbourhood Planning Group.

The company will work with Dr Nicholas Beuret from Essex Business School to engage with the community in Lavenham and encourage residents to be more eco-friendly. This will include supporting behaviour change around home heating and cooling; everyday actions and behaviours to reduce in energy bills; harnessing the collective purchasing power of the community to commission products with which to retrofit their homes; and considering the effects of overheating with hotter summers due to climate change.

The project will lead to a better understanding of the perceived and actual barriers rural communities face when adopting sustainability-related behaviours and actions in their homes. This insight will provide Project Orange with a blueprint for engaging with such communities in future.

James Soane, Director at Project Orange says: “We are delighted to be collaborating with the University of Essex on this forward-looking programme. It will help us and the community in tackling some of the climate emergency challenges we are all facing.”

Braiswick Photographic: Development of a traditional and digital marketing strategy

Braiswick Photographic is a family run SME from Cattawade, Manningtree, specialising in all aspects of school photography from pre-school to sixth form colleges.

This consultancy with Dr Muhammad Akram from Essex Business School will support Braiswick Photographic with unlocking potential growth by revolutionising their marketing strategy – which has typically centred around more traditional styles of outreach. It will explore the company’s strengths and weaknesses in their current marketing and sales activities and understand blockers to growth. The project will establish the foundations for a new marketing and digital marketing strategy for the business.

Mick Waring, Sales Director at Braiswick Photographic said: “We’re looking forward to working with Dr Akram and are grateful for the opportunity to learn from an expert this field. The discussions so far have given us great enthusiasm to progress with this project.”

92 or More: Developing and raising a brand

92 or More is a fine wine merchant from Stowmarket, selling only wines which have scored at least 92/100 by the leading wine critics of the world.

This consultancy project with Dr Erik Jacobi from Essex Business School will begin to build a brand proposition for 92 or More. It will undertake market research and competitor analysis, plus provide insights into similar ‘best in class’ brands to understand their use of digital marketing communications to create a strategy for the business. The project will also further develop the website for 92 or More to help improve its customer journey and conversion rates.

Iestyn Hooper, Director of 92 or More says: “The Innovate to Elevate Program has been a great experience to date, our consultant Dr Erik Jacobi has visited us several times to build a picture of the strengths and weaknesses of our business to build a plan for us to move forward including identifying aspects of our website and marketing that could be improved. His experience and external vision of our business has been so informative, and we look forward to taking the next steps.”

Jointly funded and supported by Babergh and Mid-Suffolk District Councils and the University, Innovate to Elevate: Babergh & Mid Suffolk is still inviting local organisations to apply for fully funded collaborative projects with highly experienced academics and research staff from the University to support business growth.

Holly Leonard, Innovation Partnerships Manager from the University of Essex says: “We’ve seen no shortage of entrepreneurial spirit from businesses across Babergh and Mid Suffolk. Many know their biggest challenges and supporting them to find the right solution, expertise, and funding to innovate has been inspiring.

“The collaborative relationships we’ve built with the successful applicants so far have been highly rewarding and we’re excited for the impact the partnerships can deliver for all involved.

“We’re still inviting local businesses to take advantage of these fully funded collaborations. At Essex we have over 800 talented researchers undertaking world-leading research, meaning organisations across Babergh and Mid Suffolk can access a wide range of expertise – from developing an entrepreneurial culture, to supply chain management, to technology adoption and automation.”

Eligibility for the scheme is as flexible as possible to encourage participation across a variety of sectors and company sizes. Businesses must be UK-owned and registered and be based locally in the Babergh and Mid Suffolk district to be eligible.

Details at

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