A new project led by Sheffield Hallam University and Barnsley Council will provide free support for businesses in the Sheffield City Region to increase their competitiveness through digital innovations.

Digital Innovation for Growth is a £1.8m, three-year programme, funded by the European Regional Development Fund. The programme has been launched to stimulate digital innovation in eligible small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) from across South Yorkshire, Chesterfield, North East Derbyshire, the Derbyshire Dales, Bassetlaw and Bolsover.

The programme will connect regional SMEs to academic expertise and world-class facilities at both Sheffield Hallam University and the two Digital Media Centres at Barnsley Council’s Digital Campus.

The support will be delivered across a host of digital needs, including enhanced cyber-security, improved design, software engineering, data analysis, artificial intelligence, user experience and rapid prototyping.

Alex Prince, Head of Knowledge Exchange and Innovation at Sheffield Hallam, said: “The launch of Digital Innovation for Growth is particularly timely with many businesses increasingly working on-line, seeking new digital solutions as a result of lock down and looking for new remote ways of engaging with their workforce, suppliers, distributors  and clients.

“Digitally driven innovations in product and process development, manufacture and distribution, on-line marketing and trading are a major driver for improved business competitiveness, survival and growth. Sheffield Hallam University is excited to be working with its partners,

Barnsley Council and Digital Media Centre to help support digital innovation for SMEs. Working alongside the Sheffield Innovation Programme and ScaleUp 360, Digital Innovation for Growth will make an important contribution to the future growth and prosperity of businesses in the SCR.”

Eligible SMEs will receive support from a dedicated account manager to help identify areas of their operations where digital technology could help them to improve processes, increase productivity and create safer working environments.

Alongside working with experts from Sheffield Hallam University, businesses will also have access to DMC 02’s state of the art ‘Makerspace Lab’ in Barnsley town centre, due to open mid-September, enabling them to design, prototype and test new products. DMC 02 also offers a programme of demonstrations and ‘how to’ guides to help businesses become more digitally savvy.

Cllr Tim Cheetham, Cabinet Spokesperson for Regeneration and Culture, said: “This project is coming at just the right time. The Makerlab at DMC 02 will allow for digital ideas to be brought to life and put to the test whilst being supported by experts from the University.

“Whilst we want to see new and creative ideas come from the project, we also hope to see businesses and innovators collaborate where possible to bring the best out of each other. We’ve seen this work fantastically well before in Barnsley and we expect that the new facilities in the DMC 02 will help to make this happen again.”

The programme is free for businesses to use and will run alongside other innovation support projects including Sheffield Innovation Programme – an initiative led by Sheffield Hallam University, the University of Sheffield and Sheffield City Region Growth Hub to provide bespoke research and innovation based consultancy to SMEs in order to stimulate business growth.

Businesses can access the support by emailing innovation@shu.ac.uk or phoning 0114 225 5000. More information for businesses is available on the Digital Innovation for Growth webpage.