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Social Enterprises Can Access University Expertise

27 March 2013

Details of a £4,000 business support scheme open to social enterprises were revealed at a University of Ulster Knowledge Club workshop this week.

Funded by Invest NI, the Innovation Voucher Programme offers businesses up to £4,000 to collaborate with universities and colleges to develop innovative business solutions.

The University of Ulster is currently the lead provider of expertise in Northern Ireland under the Innovation Voucher Programme having supported over 300 businesses throughout Ireland to date.

At the workshop held in Work West’s Social Economy village participants heard how local companies had successfully used Innovation Vouchers to gain a competitive edge.

Representatives from two local social enterprises, Stepping Stones NI and Springfield Charitable Association, spoke about their experiences of accessing support from the University.

Cara Cash, Business Development Manager at Stepping Stones NI, said: “The University of Ulster’s expertise enabled us to identify new products which were researched and designed by University staff. Using the learning from our Innovation Voucher we have launched new products into our key markets and our portfolio and balance sheet are healthier as a result.”

Terry McNeill, General Manager, Springfield Charitable Association, said: “The Innovation Voucher allowed Springfield Charitable Association to secure technical assistance to provide a baseline framework that measured our impact, and enabled us to accurately evaluate and validate core project components.”

Organiser, Kerry Patterson from the University’s Office of Innovation, was delighted there had been so much interest from businesses in the event.

She said: “Bringing the University’s expertise to social enterprises is a key priority for the Office of Innovation. We have already successfully worked with over 30 social enterprises under the Voucher programme and they have reaped the benefits of Ulster’s expertise.”

The University’s Knowledge Club is part of its Office of Innovation. The Knowledge Club is an initiative designed to promote activities and encourage stronger links between the University, business and the community. It creates an opportunity for knowledge sharing and transfer, bringing together those with common interests and creating opportunities for partnership through a number of events and forums.

For further details on the University’s support for social enterprises or the Innovation Voucher programme contact Kerry Patterson, Office of Innovation, University of Ulster, 02890 368603, email

Caption: (left to right) Attending the Innovation Voucher Programme workshop were; Terry McNeill, Springfield Charitable Association, Claire Herron, Invest NI, Kerry Patterson, University of Ulster, Cara Cash, Stepping Stones, and Vivienne Nash, University of Ulster.