Sussex Innovation is pleased to announce it has secured a European Regional Development Fund grant for £600,000 to part-fund the launch of a new open innovation network across the ‘Coast to Capital’ region.

BRAIN – the Business Research Academic Innovation Network – will run until 2020, helping innovative local start-ups and researchers to connect and collaborate with the large organisations and corporates based in the region. The partnerships will be facilitated by the Sussex Innovation support team and based between the two hubs in Falmer and East Croydon.

Sussex Innovation will look to build on its existing portfolio of product and service innovations that are currently being developed in the region and further afield, and match these with relevant commercial partners. The Coast to Capital LEP covers Brighton & Hove, Croydon, East Surrey, West Sussex and the Lewes District.

“Most large organisations are keen to develop new ideas, but have no process for bringing in innovations from outside,” said Mike Herd. “Internal R&D certainly has value, but it tends to be incremental in nature, rather than creating a step change within the business like an entirely new idea can. It’s very hard to dedicate time and resources to more disruptive ideas, because you need to focus on what’s most essential to the business.

“The biggest, most successful companies realise this – it’s why initiatives like Google Campus and EDF Blue Lab have started to appear – but there are still lots of large businesses that can’t afford to risk that kind of investment. BRAIN will provide a network for those businesses to interact with innovators from outside of their current sector, introducing truly disruptive technologies, products and services.”

Partners in the scheme will be expected to participate in a process of collaborative product development – not simply signing retail agreements, but acting as ‘customer mentors’ to help shape the progress of new products and services. As well as making direct introductions, Sussex Innovation will host a series of roundtable discussions and pitch events, starting in the autumn, to identify areas of opportunity around specific sectors of technology.

“Sussex Innovation’s vision for the BRAIN project to grow the local innovation sector through supporting small to medium sized businesses aligns well with the aims of Coast to Capital,” said Jonathan Sharrock, Chief Executive at Coast to Capital. “It is exciting to think that innovations with a truly global reach could be developed on our doorstep through BRAIN.”

Want to find out more?

If you are an innovator looking to connect with corporate partners, or a large organisation looking to access the fundamental innovation happening in Sussex and the South East, get in touch to find out more.