Funding for small firms to innovate as PAPI project looks to boost Leeds City Region’s SMEs

Small businesses in the Leeds City Region are being encouraged to apply for funding support designed to help them with product and process innovation.

Still: Abbie Nelson, co-founder of Cooper King Distillery, which received funding for a copper pot whisky still and rotary evaporator.

The University of York is delivering £1m of grant funding as part of the Product and Process Innovation (PAPI) programme.

It provides grants of up to £20,000 for the purchase of equipment which will lead to the creation of new products, services and jobs.

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Programme manager Vicky Wren believes that there are many SMEs in the region who are innovating without knowing it and could benefit from the funding.

She told The Yorkshire Post: “A lot of businesses have this preconceived idea that innovation is men in white coats doing research and development (R&D) in labs.

“A lot of companies are doing R&D or product development without even realising it.”

The university helped deliver the PAPI project in the York North Yorkshire & East Riding region, where the project is on track to create over 130 new jobs and 100 new products since its launch in 2016.

The funding is open to all kinds of small businesses. When the university ran it in the York region, there was a large number of food and drink manufacturers as well as businesses in advanced manufacturing who received support.

Ms Wren says this was down to the geography of that part of the region.

One of the businesses that benefited was Cooper King Distillery, which is based in Sutton-on-the-Forest.

The gin and whisky distillery was awarded £20,000, which part funded its Tasmanian copper pot whisky still and rotary evaporator to produce the gin.

Ms Wren said: ““We are thrilled to be able to extend this support to businesses in the Leeds City Region area.

“We’ve had great feedback from businesses we’ve already worked with, and the growth impact the grant has made to small businesses has been fantastic.

“We’re looking forward to helping more businesses in the Leeds City Region and I encourage businesses to get in touch with their project ideas.”

The project has already started running appraisal panels in Leeds, where businesses apply and have an independent panel assess the application.

“What we’re finding is that we are getting quite a lot of digital and creative type projects coming through,” Ms Wren said. She added that it was important to support small business in this way “because the economy is really tough”.

“There is a lot of uncertainty at the moment for businesses,” Ms Wren said. “Obviously, it’s vital for businesses to keep innovating in the face of competition.”

Ms Wren said that often it can take a number of years for an innovation to get off the ground. The programme will also support prototypes.

The PAPI project is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.

Despite uncertainty over Britain’s future relationship with the European Union, the funding for this project has been ringfenced and there are no issue from the point of view of businesses applying, says Ms Wren.

The project is now open for applications and businesses can quickly check their eligibility on the website at or by calling the PAPI team on 01904 32 8076.
CNC machine for 10Squared

Digital screen solutions provider 10Squared was able to purchase a CNC laser cutting machine following a £20,000 grant from the PAPI project.

General manager Gary Steele said: “The funding we received from PAPI has been invaluable to our business. The new CNC laser has allowed us to take on new contracts with more complex designs and expand our product range. As a result of the investment our lead times have reduced, meaning we can offer a greater service to customers, which in turn has had a significant effect on turnover.”