For innovative SMEs the task of coming up with new ideas is often the easy part. The on-going task of developing that idea into a viable, and profitable, product that is properly protected is often where SMEs have difficulties. And so we ask, can anybody help SME?
The UK Government has a number of programmes in the UK aimed at helping SMEs achieve their goals. We have outlined a few for consideration, and are pleased to see that all recognise the importance of intellectual property, both in the protection of new innovations and in ensuring that third party intellectual property is respected.
Growth Accelerator is a Government backed programme aimed at enabling SMEs to achieve their potential, and provides grants and on-going advice from leading business growth specialists. The programme requires the SME to be ambitious and pledge that they want to double the size of their business within three years. Not only does the Growth Accelerator provide access to general business advice, but it provides access to innovation specialists who will guide the SME in building a culture of innovation. As part of that guidance, the SME will learn to commercialise ideas, develop an innovation strategy and generate profitable intellectual property.
In addition, the SME is provided with access to funding, such as an IP audit grant of up to £3,000 from the UK Intellectual Property Office. The IP audit grant can enable the SME to determine what intellectual property has already been generated within the company. SMEs invariably underestimate the quantity and quality of their intellectual property and an IP audit can bring that out, and enable the SME to seek protection for what is an ever more valuable asset.
Technology Strategy Board is also a Government backed body with the aim of stimulating technology-enabled innovation in the areas which offer the greatest scope for boosting UK growth and productivity. There are a number of programmes run by the Technology Strategy Board, and all have a focus on the development and protection of a company’s intellectual property.
Smart provides businesses at all stages up to SME level with access to finance in the form of grants to enable them to assess markets, and invest in R&D and innovation, including the protection of intellectual property through patents, registered designs etc.
Catapult centres are being designed and set-up to advance innovation in specific technology fields. Currently there is only one centre, in high value manufacturing, but a number of other catapult centres are expected to become operational in 2013. The centres enable businesses to access research and technical expertise, infrastructure and equipment to accelerate commercialisation.
Innovation Vouchers enable innovative SMEs to access knowledge from external providers with whom they have not previously engaged. Grants of up to £5,000 are available, and can be used in assessing and protecting an SME’s intellectual property.
A further incentive for UK businesses to be innovative has been provided in the shape of the Patent Box, which is a Government tax reform that will apply a reduced rate of corporation tax to worldwide profits attributable to qualifying patents and other qualifying intellectual property (IP) rights.
These programmes and bodies have recognised how important it is for innovative SMEs to protect their intellectual property. Clearly, we too believe that protecting intellectual property is important, and that with a little help it can be a rewarding process.
So, SMEs, we hope you feel that there is someone out there that can help you.
Detailed information on the above schemes, and other relevant information, is available from the following:
This article is for general information only. Its content is not a statement of the law on any subject and does not constitute advice. Please contact Reddie & Grose LLP for advice before taking before any action in reliance on it.