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IDEAS TO THE FORE - New Research Challenge Fund
A new competition, designed to boost the commercial exploitation of research and development activity in the Highlands and Islands has been launched.

The Research Challenge Fund will see 150,000 divided amongst three succesful projects, with the amount each receives depending on the specific nature and demands of their project.   The competition has been established by Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and will be run over the summer and autumn - with the succesful projects being announced in November.

The initiative is focussed on early stage R & D (research and development) work and is primarily intended to help convert these early ideas into well-formed product or process concepts - and hopefully to help them reach their full development potential. HIE's innovation unit manager Ruaraidh MacNeil said : "Throughout Scotland a key priority at the moment is getting research ideas 'out of the labs and into the businesses' and that's exactly what this challenge fund is designed to do. There's no doubt that companies and research organisations in the Highlands and Islands have generated ideas with real potential, but often these ideas take too long to exploit or get overtaken by events. We are working to overcome this, to encourage innovation in all its forms - and then to see them commercially exploited within this area for the benefit of our economy and workforce.

"By restricting the awards to three successful organisations we hope to be able to provide them with a meaningful amount of money - enabling them to take their ideas forward. However it's worth noting that even those who don't receive one of the final awards will still benefit from the Challenge Fund process - they may well be eligible for support under HIE's other innovation development programmes."
The challenge fund is open to all small to medium sized businesses in the area, as well as research and development organisations. The only stipulations are that the research and commercial exploitation has to take place within the Highlands and Islands, and in the case of research organisations, that they have links with an existing business in the area or are able to create their own 'spin-off' business.

The deadline for the submission of outline proposals is Friday 28th June, 2002. These initial proposals will then be assessed by a panel of experts and only those with the best potential will be encouraged to go forward to the second stage of the competition, with the announcement of those second stage projects to be made in the middle of August.

There will then be an opportunity for those proposals to be further developed and re-submitted by the end of September, with the final winners being announced towards the end of November.
Any business or research organisation interested in submitting proposals or getting further information should contact Stephen Graham, the challenge fund manager on telephone number 0781 432 3452, or email him on: stephen@hieonline.org  There is also a website with further details at: www.hie.co.uk/innovation/competition.html