Connecting Capability Fund (CCF) project impacts

CCF supports collaboration between the higher education and commercial sectors. Its principal aims are to:

  • share good practice and capacity internally across the higher education sector
  • forge external technological, industrial and regional partnerships
  • deliver the government’s Industrial Strategy priorities.

Following are the current CCF projects, with information on the partners involved, funds awarded and details on the project and, where available, its impacts.

Northern Gritstone University Partnership

Lead: University of Manchester
Higher education partners: The University of Sheffield, University of Leeds
CCF award: £2 million

About the project

Northern Gritstone Ltd (NG) was established in April 2021 through a 15-year framework agreement with the partner universities of the Northern Triangle Initiative. This gives NG preferred access for first investment in new spinout companies.

Find out more

Visit the Northern Gritstone website.

A Social Sciences Platform for Entrepreneurship, Commercialisation and Transformation (Aspect)

Lead: London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)
Higher education partners: The University of Manchester, University of Sussex
CCF award: £2.4 million

About the project and its impacts

Aspect provides specialist support for organisations looking to make the most of commercial and business opportunities from social sciences research.

Follow-on funding will enable Aspect to use the learnings from the first three years of the programme to:

  • expand the membership
  • create further additional good practice in social sciences commercialisation
  • capture that good practice and embed it across the higher education community
  • continue and improve on pilot programmes (including the Aspect Research Commercialisation Accelerator – ARC), scaling them up as they become an established part of the UK’s innovation infrastructure
  • help build a nationwide pool of academic champions through the Aspect membership
  • explore new ways to increase engagement with social sciences researchers and academics at all stages of their career.

In year two, Aspect will focus more on the arts and humanities, aligned with SHAPE (Social Sciences, Humanities and the Arts for People and the Economy). It will also look to work with the MedTech SuperConnector (MTSC) to better realise the potential in bringing together healthcare technology with the application of social sciences research.

Find out more

Visit the Aspect project website.

Clean Growth UK

Lead: University of Brighton
Higher education partners: University of Portsmouth, Liverpool John Moores University
CCF award: £1.37 million

About the project

Clean Growth UK is a university-led innovation network of forward-thinking green businesses. Its mission is to connect climate-conscious businesses with the resources they need to innovate and grow. A membership of over 2,000 companies brings together businesses who are developing the solutions needed for a sustainable, net zero future.

Regional hubs at the University of Brighton, University of Portsmouth and Liverpool John Moores University provide dedicated innovation support to members, linking them to extensive research expertise and facilities. Clean Growth UK also provides commercialisation and investment support, ensuring that clean innovations are successfully brought to market, creating climate and green growth impacts.

The project’s impacts

Since launch in early 2019 the project has successfully united the three regional hubs under one brand and service model. It has created a COVID-safe virtual workshop programme and information infrastructure consisting of a CRM, website with members directory and portal. Clean Growth UK attracts over 30 new members per month and has delivered:

  • 200 research and development projects
  • £9 million of research and development income
  • 130 products and services
  • 300 jobs (created or safeguarded).

The project is now moving into its second phase thanks to CCF follow-on funding. The network will expand to additional university hubs with an improved service offering. The project will further develop relationships with corporate partners and implement a sustainable business plan to ensure longevity of the network. This will support UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to innovate solutions to the climate emergency.

Find out more

Visit the Clean Growth website.

Eastern ARC: Enabling Innovation – Research to Application (EIRA)

Lead: University of Essex
Higher education partners: East Anglia and Kent
CCF award: £4.69 million

About the project and its impacts

This project is extending the established Eastern Arc Research Consortium (ARC) to support businesses and priority technology sectors in the East of England. ARC works with a network of regional higher education providers, and focuses on three key themes of:

  • digital creative
  • biotechnology
  • artificial intelligence.

The EIRA Network seeks to build connectivity across the region, making the most of its assets and helping ensure that innovative ideas lead to growing businesses. The project aims to expand knowledge exchange activities across the region, which should help more new innovative business clusters to develop more quickly.

A combination of well-established and more innovative methods will be used in this project to help scale up start-ups and encourage innovative business clusters to grow. This should lead to improvements in the region’s supply chains and its productivity.

Find out more

Read about how the EIRA Network is funding innovation projects in the East of England on the EIRA website.

Grow MedTech: collaborating for a competitive future

Lead: University of Leeds
Higher education partners: University of Bradford, University of Huddersfield, Leeds Beckett University, Sheffield Hallam University and University of York

About the project

Grow MedTech provides specialist support for innovation in medical technologies by drawing on the knowledge and expertise of a consortium of six universities across the Leeds and Sheffield City Regions. The project’s sector-specialist innovation support is helping to put these regions at the forefront of the UK’s medtech sector.

Its six skilled and experienced technology innovation managers are based in partner universities. They work collectively as a team, connecting with academics, companies and clinicians from across the region.

The project’s impacts

Grow MedTech helps form partnerships, connecting people from academia, industry and clinical practice to collaborate on developing new medical technologies. It helps projects bring together different disciplines and technologies – including digital and AI – to enable its partners to access the strongest market opportunities.

The project provides funding to support technologies from initial concepts at Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 2 and 3 through to pre-clinical studies at TRL 5+.

Academics and companies can access sector-specialist expertise and advice to help them progress their technologies, create effective partnerships and make the most of additional funding from other sources.

Find out more

Visit the Grow Medtech website.

Impacting Business by Design

Lead: De Montfort University
Higher education partners: Brunel University London, Nottingham Trent University
Industry partners: Engineering Employers Federation, Chartered Alternative Investment Analysts

About the project and its impacts

This project helps small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) get more responsive and holistic support for innovative design that will enable them to successfully develop and commercialise new products.

A consortium of universities and industry associations with a new specialist trading body, ‘Impacting Business by Design’ will help SMEs:

  • better match their consultancy and financing needs with an ever expanding range of specialist sources
  • with useful guidance on business issues
  • forge new business-relationships within our network
  • nurture new design innovation skills, culture and systems.

Connecting Capabilities in Advanced Therapies

Lead: King’s College London
Higher education partners: University College London, Imperial College London, Queen Mary University of London, University of Bristol, The University of Manchester, Newcastle University, University of Cardiff, University of Birmingham, University of Edinburgh, University of Glasgow, Queen’s University Belfast
CCF award: £1.32 million

About the project

Advanced therapies include a variety of novel gene-based and cell-based techniques, which can be used to treat a wide range of serious conditions.

Funded through a Research England Connecting Capabilities Fund award, London Advanced Therapies (LAT) was established in 2018. Since then, the programme has delivered an accessible and comprehensive package of activities that encourage:

  • universities to accelerate knowledge transfer between them
  • industry to benefit from London’s expertise in this field, which is a key growth area for life sciences in the UK and worldwide.

Among the forms of knowledge exchange that LAT supports, for example, is the mapping of expertise. This enables any life science company working in advanced therapies – anywhere in the world – to be put in touch with relevant experts within hours.

The project’s impacts

The additional funding will support the establishment of a nation-wide collaboration, UK Advanced Therapies (UKAT). This will create a bridge between a successful London-focused endeavour and a UK wide, comprehensive network. Working together across the regions and nations will:

  • lead to more inward investment
  • make the project’s capabilities readily accessible
  • translate them into a competitive advantage to industry.

This will further enhance the UK’s position as global leader in the field.

MedTech SuperConnector (MTSC)

Lead: Imperial College London
Higher education partners: Buckinghamshire New University, Institute of Cancer Research, Queen Mary University of London, Royal College of Art, Royal College of Music, Royal Veterinary College, The Francis Crick Institute
CCF award: £3.45 million

About the project

MedTech SuperConnector (MTSC) is an accelerator programme founded in 2018 to empower early-career researchers to translate academic insights from the arts and sciences into early-stage medical technologies. As well as supporting new medical technologies, it has used experimentation to identify best practice in entrepreneurship education and medical technology acceleration.

MTSC’s mission to establish a new MedTech hub while creating and sharing best acceleration practice has never been more relevant in the face of the UK’s current MedTech competitiveness and localisation challenges. The CCF extension funding will allow for the delivery of a new approach to MedTech acceleration at a national scale, the inclusion of an innovation seed fund and world leading digital learning content.

Impacts of the project

In the four previous cohorts, MTSC has experimented with technology and challenge-led models for sourcing promising innovation, technology, and researchers. Its findings have been disseminated beyond the consortium of the MTSC and supported the development of industry and higher education institute entrepreneurship initiatives.

Specific impacts include:

  • creation of ventures employing more than 24 people
  • formation of 11 startups
  • filing of 15 patents
  • £7.24 million raised in venture capital and grants
  • The Royal College of Music commercialised its first ever technology venture
  • findings shared with the CRUK Advisory Board for entrepreneurship, Hamlyn Centre for Surgical Innovation and London In Vitro Diagnostics.

Find out more

Visit the MedTech SuperConnector website.

Midlands Innovation Commercialisation of Research Accelerator (MICRA)

Lead: University of Birmingham
Higher education partners: Aston University, Cranfield University, Keele University, University of Leicester, Loughborough University, University of Nottingham and University of Warwick

About the project and its impacts

This project is establishing the UK’s largest formal technology transfer office collaboration, which will be built across the eight Midlands Innovation (MI) alliance universities. The project will:

  • provide a shared knowledge exchange network and access to the MI alliance’s collective intellectual property (IP) resources
  • develop the alliance’s entrepreneurial academic capacity
  • showcase the MI’s collective IP to business and investors
  • drive a connected Midlands incubator and accelerator ecosystem.

The combined ‘technology transfer offices’ (TTOs) will work together to build a spin-out and start-up ecosystem that will accelerate innovations to market. The joint pipeline of scalable investment opportunities created will attract major private investment funding (through long term capital) and increase the number of Midlands spinout jobs generated from research investment.

Find out more

Visit the MICRA website.

Promoting the Internet of Things via collaborations between HEIs & industry (Pitch-In)

Lead: The University of Sheffield
Higher education partners: University of Oxford, University of Cambridge and Newcastle University

About the project

The Internet of Things (IoT) is the interconnection through the internet of computing devices embedded in objects about our person, in our homes, factories, hospitals, buildings, cities and environment. IoT enables these devices to send and receive data and to collaborate with other internet enabled devices and computers to provide a host of applications and services. More than 50 billion connected elements are projected to be online by 2030. The IoT was expected to bolster the UK economy by £81 billion and bring 67,000 jobs to the UK by 2021. IoT supports many ‘smart’ infrastructures and lies at the heart of industrial digitisation efforts to achieve greater productivity. The UK government’s MadeSmarter review identifies many such opportunities for increased productivity through digitisation.

The project’s benefits

The Pitch-In project will work to ensure IoT technologies and expertise benefit the UK. It will:

  • arrange and promote wide-ranging collaboration between academic institutions and the public and private sectors
  • investigate any barriers to making the most of the IoT and try out solutions
  • capture knowledge exchange good practice learning outcomes
  • disseminate guidance regionally, nationally and globally
  • build sustainable ecosystems to fuel effective IoT innovation in four priority sectors of manufacturing, energy, cities and health and social care.

An overarching theme, Managing the Introduction of IoT, will consider the challenges of introducing IoT across communities, businesses and industry sectors.

SETsquared scale-up programme

Lead: University of Bath
Higher education partners: Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey
CCF award: £3.3 million

About the project

This project aims to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) meet the challenges that come with growing through innovation. The programme pools the resources of partner universities to develop new, high-profile research commercialisation projects with SMEs in key sectors including:

  • health and wellbeing
  • advanced engineering and manufacturing
  • sustainable technologies
  • marine and maritime and digital innovation.

The scale-up programme helps its SME members develop scalable business models that make the most of the potential commercialisation of university research. The programme helps members:

  • identify the innovation gap
  • get the best research talent, often from multiple universities
  • secure the private and public co-investment to finance the innovation roadmap.

Participants in the programme are a high-profile network of like-minded business leaders, prominent researchers and specialist investors who create new opportunities for research commercialisation.

Impacts of the project

In its next phase of development, the scale-up programme will:

  • extend the programme’s benefits to newly emerging spinouts from the partner universities through the Executives into Business initiative (in partnership with the Northern Accelerator, which places experienced business leaders at the head of the new ventures to help them grow through innovation)
  • launch a venture capital fund that will invest in the opportunities that are developed by the programme.

Find out more

Visit the Scale Up Programme website.

South West Creative Technology Network (SWCTN)

Lead: University of the West of England
Higher education partners: Bath Spa University, Falmouth University and University of Plymouth
Other partners: Watershed and Kaleider

About the project

The collaboration will invest in interdisciplinary research and development fellowships and prototype production across three challenge areas: immersion, automation and data. The focus on creative technology brings together arts, design, computer sciences, engineering and business development to deliver new products and services.

The project’s impacts

The project will develop a new, networked model of knowledge exchange for creative technologies’ innovation. It will do this by harnessing the expertise in creative businesses and universities across the South West region to deliver a series of interdisciplinary research and development programmes. The project aims to increase productivity by fostering connectivity between diverse partners, people and projects.

An important focus will be to help creative technology and creative practices make progress in other sectors. The resulting collaborations will produce commercial and social impacts across the challenge areas in a range of sectors, including the creative industries, health, and manufacturing.

Find out more

Visit the South West Creative Technology Network website.

SPace Research & Innovation Network for Technology (SPRINT)

Lead: University of Leicester
Higher education partners: The Open University, University of Southampton and University Of Surrey
CCF award: £2 million

About the project

SPRINT provides small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with access to expertise in five of the UK’s top space universities. The people, knowledge, facilities, applications, technologies and training they access will support their development of new products and services, enabled through space, for their core markets.

The programme is supported by a network of partners within the UK’s space innovation ecosystem, representing government agencies, business support and innovation organisations, and the space investment community. Through its partners, SPRINT connects with the ecosystem helping SMEs find the technical and business support they need to take their business to the next level.

SPRINT benefits from a broad, coherent programme of strategic capital and innovation investment by its partners and is supported by Research England, the Scottish Funding Council and the UK Space Agency.

The project’s impacts

In its first three years, SPRINT has:

  • allocated over £3.6 million to support projects collaborated on by UK businesses and higher education institutions
  • enabled £6.6 million of research and development activity focused on exploiting space technologies
  • engaged with over 450 businesses across the UK, enabling over 90 collaborative innovation projects.

SPRINT is looking to extend the geographic reach of the programme and broaden its technical and academic capabilities.

Find out more

Visit the SPRINT website for more information.

UK SPINE Knowledge Exchange

Lead: University of Oxford
Higher education partners: University of Birmingham, University of Dundee and The Francis Crick Institute
CCF award: £1.64 million

About the project

UK SPINE is the first UK-wide drug discovery network focused on treating the underlying diseases of ageing. Its work is at the intersection of basic ageing biology, chronic disease and health.

UK SPINE operates across universities, catapults and biomedical research infrastructure, with six hubs forming a ‘spine’ connecting the length of the UK’s geography. This incorporates:

  • the Dundee Drug Discovery Unit (DDU) (Scotland)
  • Medicines Discovery Catapult (North West)
  • University of Birmingham (West Midlands)
  • University of Oxford (South East)
  • The Francis Crick Institute (London)
  • the Open Targets Consortium, part of the European Bioinformatics Institute (EMBL-EBI), Wellcome Sanger Centre, Cambridge.

UK SPINE is focusing on four major themes:

  • developing methods for investment for new potential medicines, ensuring they reach the patient
  • growing the research talent pipeline in the UK
  • building strong foundations for geoscience sector
  • strengthening international collaboration.

The project’s impacts

The project is working with over 50 higher education institutions, businesses, charities and patient groups to create a strong knowledge exchange environment around the science of ageing. Its relationships with investors, businesses and the NHS helps it:

  • translate results into new medicines
  • accelerate the adoption of drugs in a clinical setting
  • ensure those medicines are safe, effective and affordable
    create new jobs.

Find out more

Visit the UK SPINE website to learn more.

Teesside, Hull and York - Mobilising Bioeconomy Knowledge Exchange (THYME)

Lead: University of York
Higher education partners: University of Hull and Teesside University
Other partners: Biorenewables Development Centre
CCF award: £1.81 million

About the project

THYME is a collaboration between the universities of Teesside, Hull and York dedicated to boosting the area’s bioeconomy. Germany’s Bioeconomy Council defines the bioeconomy as knowledge-based production and use of biological resources to provide products, processes and services in all economic sectors within the frame of a sustainable economic system.

THYME has been awarded a further £1.8 million of funding from Research England to continue the highly successful collaboration between the Universities of Teesside, Hull and York. The fast-growing bioeconomy represents a major economic opportunity for the UK, particularly for the North of England, which has world-class bioeconomy assets in academia and industry.

The project’s impacts

With over £2 million investment in research and innovation projects, THYME is developing strategic partnerships and progressing commercial opportunities with industry to drive growth in the region’s bioeconomy. A further series of ‘intercluster’ events will be developed as well as entrepreneurial training workshops to support bio-based businesses. Work will continue to develop the Virtual THYME Region (VTR) project, which maps the regional bioeconomy assets. THYME will also continue to engage the public and school children through outreach activities.

The innovations kick-started by THYME will help to boost economic growth, paving the way to a more sustainable future where industry uses renewable sources of raw materials.

Find out more

Visit the THYME project website to learn more.

The Northern Triangle Initiative (NTI)

Lead: The University of Manchester
Higher education partners: University of Leeds and The University of Sheffield

About the project

The universities of Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield have jointly established the Northern Triangle Initiative (NTI) to help develop novel research findings into ideas and innovations, and then to help those make a successful leap into the marketplace. Major areas of innovation range include advanced materials, medical technologies and computer science.

The project’s impacts

NTI supports the growth and development of a shared intellectual property pipeline. The collaboration intends to:

  • set up a unique, regionally focused finance vehicle
  • seek £350 million in private finance to support university commercialisation
  • strengthen the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the North of England.

The Northern Accelerator – Integrating Capabilities in the North East

Lead: Durham University
Higher education partners: Newcastle University, Northumbria University, University of Sunderland
CCF award: £3.56 million

About the project

Northern Accelerator is a collaboration between the North East’s universities that aims to help world-leading research make real-world impacts by commercialising innovation. This will in turn boost the region’s economy.

The partnership continued to receive CCF funding and launched a stream of highly investable businesses in the last three years. It has expanded in the North East, adding Teesside University to the partnership and further strengthening the pipeline of innovative commercial opportunities coming from the region’s university research.

The project’s impacts

Northern Accelerator’s flagship support offer is Executives into Business, which helps recruit an experienced CEO at the early stages of a spinout, giving businesses the best chance at success.

Northern Accelerator’s full programme of support includes impact and entrepreneurship training for academics. It also includes pre-incorporation funding to help academics progress their research projects closer to commercialisation.

The initial phase of CCF funding saw the launch of a Northern Accelerator Seed Investment Fund, managed by Northstar Ventures. This will act as a cornerstone for the development of a much larger long-term venture capital fund for university spin-outs in the region.

Additional CCF funding will allow the partnership to:

  • build a strong pipeline of spinout opportunities to feed the investment fund
  • introduce a new scale-up programme for businesses with high growth potential.

Find out more

Visit the Northern Accelerator website.

The Ceres Agri-Tech Knowledge Exchange Partnership

Lead: University of Cambridge
Higher education partners: University of East Anglia, University Of Hertfordshire, University of Lincoln and University of Reading

About the project

Ceres is a cluster of universities and agricultural research institutes helping support growth, productivity and innovation across the agri-food supply chain in the East of England.

The project’s impacts

Ceres aims to make the most of promising new research in agricultural science by helping get more ideas and opportunities to market more quickly. The project does this by:

  • pooling knowledge exchange expertise and technological capabilities
  • providing translational funding to projects co-created with industry
  • building on successful and sustainable models in other technology sectors.

Find out more

Visit the Ceres website.

The Bloomsbury SET

Lead: Royal Veterinary College and Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine (LSTM)
Higher education partners: SOAS University of London
CCF award: £1.9 million

About the project and its impacts

With emerging disease at the forefront of news headlines as never before, The Bloomsbury SET is developing new solutions to combat infectious disease and antimicrobial resistance. Through its Impact Connector programme, it will work with businesses to deliver new products for human and animal health, including vaccines, diagnostic and therapies.

The programme will provide hands-on early-stage commercialisation support for the best new ideas originating from the partner institutions. Three overlapping elements of this programme will support new partnerships with companies, alongside skills training and product development. At the heart of this will be new connections to partners in the Infection Innovation Consortium (iiCON) led by LSTM.

The Bloomsbury SET will focus on delivering support that enables the best technologies to move closer to market. This will include:

  • organising activities that introduce its academics to potential company partners
  • offering small grants to nurture these new collaborations
  • offering a skills development programme to enhance institutional capacity for supporting commercialisation.

The project’s work will help lead to the creation of new knowledge ecosystems that link universities to industry partners and investors.

Last updated: 30 April 2024

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