A SCHEME to pair up companies with good ideas with academics who can help with research and further development has been launched in the East of England following a trial earlier this year. Businesses developing exciting new products and services can get

A SCHEME to pair up companies with good ideas with academics who can help with research and further development has been launched in the East of England following a trial earlier this year.

Businesses developing exciting new products and services can get their hands on a unique voucher over the coming months, offering them up to one week's close collaboration with top academics and researchers absolutely free of charge.

The East of England Development Agency's (EEDA) 'Innovation Vouchers' scheme provides small to medium-sized enterprises with £3,000 worth of dedicated support and advice. But businesses have only until 5pm on Monday October 12 to apply for a voucher.

Paul May, EEDA's executive director of innovation, said: "The East of England is already home to a rich array of innovative businesses developing products and services of international acclaim. But it's not all about the 'big-hitters' like BT, GlaxoSmithKline or Unilever. Ambitious smaller companies are the lifeblood of our region's economy, and EEDA's Innovation Voucher scheme aims to help these businesses turn innovative ideas into real commercial success.

"We backed 75 companies with nearly a quarter of a million pounds of funding when we piloted the project back in January. The vouchers are easy to apply for and even easier to spend, and we saw all sorts of projects coming forward in the last round. Collaboration like this, with top academics, really can make the difference for innovative companies, helping them to resolve issues and enhance their products."

INFORMATION: Innovation Vouchers are offered under the Solutions for Business programme - part of the government's drive to simplify access to support for businesses across the UK. To apply for a voucher, visit www.eeda.org.uk/innovationvouchers. Other support available to innovative companies can be found on EEDA's The Business Map - www.bizmapeast.co.uk