Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) gives the public sector the edge

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A new report from Innovate UK that evaluates and showcases the success of SBRI has been published today.

The 20-year initiative allows research and development services to be acquired from private sector providers who develop, in competition, solutions for the public sector.

The report demonstrates SBRI success for a variety of government departments, agencies and devolved administrations across the UK.

SBRI for organisations of any size

Despite its name, SBRI is not just for small businesses. Organisations of any size are eligible to apply including:

  • start-ups
  • small and mid-size enterprises (SME)
  • large organisations
  • not-for-profits
  • charities.

More than 100 public sector organisations have already used the scheme, including:

  • The Ministry of Defence
  • Department for Health and Social Care
  • Department for Transport
  • NHS.

Linking the private sector with the public sector

Innovate UK’s Chief Executive, Indro Mukerjee, said:

The Innovate UK SBRI programme is a proven way of linking innovative private sector businesses with the public sector to address their challenges and develop long lasting solutions.

We are pleased with its recognised impact to date and now looking to further enhance and develop the programme for the future.

Video credit: UKRI
On-screen captions and an autogenerated transcript are available on YouTube

Exciting and innovative projects

SBRI is responsible for some of the most exciting and innovative projects that have made the public sector more efficient and effective.

These innovative projects include:

  • zero-emission rail travel
  • innovative autonomous defence systems
  • alternative food products to help tackle childhood obesity.

It offers innovators the chance to win a government contract to help demonstrate and develop their new technologies in partnership with an intelligent lead customer, in turn growing and scaling UK businesses.

Recovery from COVID-19

The initiative was recently used to support the government’s clean recovery from COVID-19 plans, with over £48.6 million invested in supporting the most innovative ideas delivered by Innovate UK.

An additional competition, sponsored by the Welsh government, saw Hygiene Pro Clean respond to the need to reduce the spread of COVID-19.

They developed an effective decontamination system for ambulances that uses ultrasonic atomisation to kill COVID-19 quickly without damaging the ambulance equipment. The tool was subsequently deployed in the NHS.

By linking with government agencies such as the Defence and Security Accelerator and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, they were able to rigorously test their product and successfully bring it to market.

Bionic prostheses for children and young people

Another example in the medical arena is Open Bionics, which worked with the West of England Academic Health Science Network (AHSN).

They were awarded £800,000 to develop affordable, 3D-printed, bionic prostheses for children and young people.

This addressed the challenge of restoring limb function to support the independence of children and young people with long-term conditions that had been identified as an unmet priority need.

The firm developed a multi-grip myoelectric bionic hand using 3D scanning and printing technology.

The resulting Hero Arm comes in three sizes to fit children aged 8 to 17, with customisable prosthetic covers based on popular characters from films including:

  • Iron Man
  • Frozen
  • Star Wars.

To date, SBRI has invested over £1 billion in research and development services to develop products and services that are improving lives and livelihoods across the country.

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