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£4.7 million to boost economic growth in the East of England

Universities Minister Jo Johnson has announced that the Government is investing £4.7 million

It will be used to grow the economy through improved productivity in the eastern region by encouraging collaboration between universities and businesses. The Eastern Academic Research Consortium (Eastern ARC) – comprising the universities of Essex, East Anglia and Kent – has been awarded £4.7 million by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) to establish a network that will support business innovation in Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Kent. The Enabling Innovation: Research to Application (EIRA) network will build collaborations with businesses and those partnerships will collectively have access to new funding, training, networking opportunities and collaborative working space.

Vanessa Cuthill, Director of the Research and Enterprise Office at the University of Essex which is leading the project on behalf of Eastern ARC, said: “We have world leading research in the east of England across our higher education sector, but the region scores lower than the UK average for productivity and growth. This network aims to change this by harnessing the resources of regional universities and connecting businesses with our expertise, particularly across the areas that Eastern ARC specialises in – artificial intelligence, agri- tech, and digital creative.” Joining the universities of Essex, East Anglia and Kent in the network will be higher education partners the University of Suffolk, Writtle University College, Norwich University of the Arts and Harlow College. Initial partners include BT, South East LEP, New Anglia LEP, Digital Catapult, Tech East and Agri-Tech East.

Fraser Burton, Head of BT University in Research & Innovation said: “BT is keen to translate research into innovation and useful products and services and we will directly support and collaborate with this initiative and advise on its future direction. EIRA’s research expertise and innovation will not only find application in telecommunications, but will prove useful for many diverse areas of the digital economy, especially in the east of England.”

The funding has been allocated from the £20 million first round of HEFCE’s Connecting Capability Fund which supports universities in working together and with external partners to commercialise research, and contributes to the delivery of the Government’s Industrial Strategy. Eastern ARC’s EIRA network project was one of just four major projects awarded funding in the first round.