Building on consultation with regional BPFS leaders, the fund will capitalise on Birmingham’s rapidly growing business/academia/policy ecosystem, to support exciting new discoveries in the City Centre’s emerging innovation district.

Businesses, working with an academic lead, can apply for grants up to £4,000 to deliver innovation across products, services or processes. Pilot projects might include technology development and transfer, initiatives to support workflows, or programmes to support innovative approaches to employee diversity and wellbeing. The University of Birmingham Business Engagement team will help interested businesses to form academic links in preparation of an application, where needed.

Applications are open for twelve months from July 8th 2021. All projects will need to be completed within the year, with aggregate outputs informing how best to drive outcomes for successful innovation in the sector and region. Findings from the successful pilot programmes will be compiled into a white paper highlighting successes and providing case studies to be used as evidence in development of future regional innovation deals.

Tim Pile, Chair of GBSLEP comments:

“We are delighted to be working with the University of Birmingham to launch this pilot. GBSLEP’s collaboration with one of the region’s leading knowledge base reflects our unique structure of bringing together the academic sector, local government and businesses to create targeted projects that will drive forwards inclusive economic growth. This fund will help stimulate closer working to support innovation within our region’s largest sector - Business Professional and Financial Services. Crucially, by investing in innovation we are contributing to the attractiveness of the West Midlands as a global centre for next generation services, now and in the future."

Tony Randle, Partner at Shoosmiths and LawTech lead for WM SuperTech, adds:

“Shoosmiths and the University of Birmingham have recently embarked on an ambitious project with AI technology specialist, ThoughtRiver. The initial outcomes from the proof of concept, focusing on AI in legal processes, demonstrated significant time savings and risk mitigation benefits. This case study is a prime example of how business and academia can work together to solve problems more effectively. Now, with Shoosmiths as a founding supporter of SuperTech – the first professional services technology (ProfTech) supercluster in the UK – we hope this fund drives similar technology-led productivity gains within BPFS organisations, as well as across service and process development.”

Simon Collinson, Deputy Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Regional Engagement at the University of Birmingham, comments:

“This fund demonstrates how we are strengthening the University’s civic role in the region, focusing on innovative approaches to accelerate the region’s economic growth in an inclusive way. As the largest contributor to jobs and GVA in the region, the BPFS sector is particularly important. Our city centre presence, The Exchange, enables us to participate even more effectively at the heart of the city-region innovation ecosystem.”

To learn more about stimulating innovation in professional services in the region, insights into working with academia to drive productivity gains, and how to access the fund, join us at a webinar on July 21st 8.30-9.30am with Anne Green, Professor of Regional Economic Development at City-REDI, and James Sharp, Business Engagement Partner, both from the University of Birmingham; Hilary Smyth-Allen, BPFS Sector & Modern Services Lead at the GBSLEP; Tony Randle of Shoosmiths; and Tim Pullan, CEO of ThoughtRiver.

Full details of the fund, application process and eligibility criteria are available.

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