The Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) has been hailed a success as it passes a milestone of £100 million of contracts awarded to small businesses from public sector departments.
The news coincides with the UK government's pledge to expand the SBRI by increasing the value of contracts offered through the scheme from £40 million in 2012-13 to over £100 million in 2013-14 and over £200 million in 2014-15.
Established in 2009, the SBRI gives SMEs an opportunity to connect with public sector procurement by inviting them to present innovative solutions to specific problems in a competition format.
The ideas presented can result in 100 percent funded government development contracts with the public sector body running the competition. Since inception, the scheme has run 124 full competitions, resulting in 1,270 contracts awarded to SMEs at a total value of £104.8 million.
"The beauty of the SBRI is that it presents a truly win-win scenario whereby government departments can find solutions to very real problems, whilst small businesses have an opportunity to present their ideas to organisations that may otherwise be unreachable," said Stephen Browning, Head of SBRI at the TSB.
"The challenges are expressed as outcome-based needs rather than narrow product specification to give greater scope for innovation."
Previous successes include mobile security technology for the Home Office, military technology for the Centre for Defence Enterprise, and assistive learning software for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
The TSB also pointed to the case of young medical technology company Eykon, which won a contract with the NHS in the East of England for its 3D wound imaging technology. Eykona's technology can assess hard-to-heal wounds such as diabetic and pressure ulcers, replacing traditional methods which still involve rulers, tracing paper, and ordinary cameras.
The contract played a crucial role in connecting Eykona with the NHS and securing funding to commercialise the technology. Today Eykona is a listed NHS supplier helping to address the wound care problem that costs the NHS an estimated £3 billion per annum.
"Clinicians working together with entrepreneurs and technology specialists gives us an exciting mix that leads to real innovation," said Karen Livingstone, Director of Strategic Partnerships, NHS East of England.
"The NHS has many challenges to tackle and, through the SBRI healthcare programme, we are building long-term partnerships with industry to create new products that will save lives and deliver economic value to the UK economy."