Business support for SMEs

In January 2013 the UK Intellectual Property Office published a booklet (www.ipo.gov.uk/business-support.pdf) titled "Business Support for SMEs: Maximising the Value of Intellectual Property".

This booklet is a useful starting point for SMEs looking to find out what advice and financial support is available for them in the UK.

A summary of the forms of support covered in the booklet is provided below.

The Growth Accelerator scheme (www.growthaccelerator.com) provides guidance and support for high growth SMEs in England from business growth specialists.  The costs for using the scheme range from £600-£3000 depending on the size of the business and are subsidised.

The Design Leadership Programme (www.designcouncil.org.uk/our-work/leadership/) is delivered by the Design Council and provides coaching and mentoring services for SMEs, public sector organisations and universities.  A team of Design Associates help clients develop a design strategy to realise a final design product.  The cost for using the programme ranges from £2k to £15k but may be subsidised by up to 50%.

Passport to Export (www.ukti.gov.uk/export/howwehelp/passporttoexport.html) is a scheme which helps businesses plan and develop their international trade.  An in-depth capability assessment is provided as well as training from experts, including IP awareness training.

The Technology Strategy Board has set up a network of Catapult Centres (https://catapult.innovateuk.org) which are technology and innovation centres focussing on technologies with potentially large markets and a significant UK capability.  They provide businesses with technology and expertise which might not otherwise be available to them and also carry out their own research.

The Manufacturing Advisory Service (www.mymas.org) offers manufacturing support to businesses in England.  A free business review helps companies to develop a specialist project plan addressing their particular needs.  Up to 50% match funding is available, from £300 to £3000.

The Patent Box (http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/ct/forms-rates/claims/patent-box.htm) will be phased in from April 2013 and will provide a reduced rate of corporation tax for companies developing and exploiting patented inventions.

SMART grants (www.innovateuk.org/content/competition/smart.ashx) provide SMEs with up to 60% funding for projects relating to proof of market, proof of concept or prototype development.

Innovation vouchers (https://vouchers.innovateuk.org/) provide SMEs with a grant of up to £5000 to work with a supplier of knowledge or technology transfer for the first time.

The IP Audit scheme provides SMEs with an IP assessment from a qualified IP professional of their choice to help them develop and implement an IP policy for their business.  The cost of the audit (up to £3000) is covered by the IPO.

PatLib Centres (www.ipo.gov.uk/whyuse/business/business-patlib) are a network of thirteen libraries across the UK, including the Business and IP Centre (www.bl.uk/bipc) at the British Library, each of which has staff who can provide IP and business advice.

A free Online Healthcheck (www.ipo.gov.uk/whyuse/business/iphealthcheck) for any business to perform a basic assessment of its IP is available at the IPO website.

Catherine Noronha, Associate