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Local businesses set to benefit as South Hampshire College Group receives portion of £7.4 million national investment

Local businesses set to benefit as South Hampshire College Group receives portion of £7.4 million national investment

South Hampshire College Group has been announced as the only college on the South Coast to be awarded a portion of £7.4 million worth of national innovation investment.

The funding, from Innovate UK’s Further Education Innovation Fund (FEIF), is designed to transform the way in which Further Education can support local businesses and strengthen partnerships between colleges and SMEs across the Solent region, through the creation of the South Hampshire Business Innovation Centre.

Focusing on the Engineering, Digital, and Health and Social Care sectors, South Hampshire College Group (SHCG), a merger of City College Southampton, Eastleigh College, and Fareham College, will offer free industry-specific business solutions, cutting-edge upskilling programmes, impartial advice on funding support, access to advanced facilities, technologies, processes, and research and development expertise.

The South Hampshire Business Innovation Centre will help businesses understand how they can adopt innovations in technologies, business models, and processes, using SHCG’s expertise and infrastructure. In turn, supporting a thriving ecosystem for innovation that actively drives local business growth.

Leading the initiative for SHCG is Naomi Smith, Programme Director (Local Skills Improvement Fund and Further Education Innovation Fund). She said: 

“We are delighted to have been successful in securing funding through Innovate UK’s brand-new Further Education Innovation Fund (FEIF). South Hampshire College Group is one of four ‘Innovation Mission’ colleges in England awarded the funding.

“Colleges are not necessarily seen as innovation champions or the ‘place to go’ for business support, so this national project offers an exciting opportunity to re-shape local business perceptions of SHCG as a cutting-edge Innovation Centre where Business Innovation Managers will work directly with local SMEs from across the LSIP priority sectors to directly support innovation, business growth and in turn economic growth for the South Hampshire region and beyond.

“Our focus on key sectors such as Engineering (including Marine, Robotics and Automation), Digital Transformations, and Health and Social Care ensures that we’re addressing the real needs of our local economy, providing tangible solutions and opportunities for measurable growth.”

Committed to being an investment “for the region,” colleges across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight can also benefit from the Innovation Centre, with South Hampshire College Group being able to signpost to other institutions should the needs of a business fall outside of the Group’s remit.

In total, nine projects involving 33 colleges will receive investment from the pilot. This will be distributed across strategic groups including Innovation Accelerator City Regions: Glasgow City Region, Greater Manchester Combined Authority, and the West Midlands Combined Authority. In addition, the Association of Colleges (AoC) and the Gatsby Foundation have identified a group of ‘Innovation Mission’ colleges that will also be supported through the fund.

Each additional Local Innovation Centre will tailor its approach to the specific needs of local businesses. These include:

  • Birmingham Metropolitan College (leading the Birmingham Innovation Centre Partnership, with six colleges in the Birmingham area)
  • Chelmsford College (running the Inclusive Employment – Innovating Businesses Programme)
  • Coventry College (leading “Driving SME Innovation in the West Midlands,” with three colleges in the area)
  • Glasgow Kelvin College (leading the Glasgow City Region College Innovation Network, with six colleges in the Glasgow City Region)
  • Loughborough College (running the Innovation Through AI Programme)
  • The Oldham College (leading the GM FE Innovation Programme, with all nine colleges in Greater Manchester)
  • Runshaw College (hosting the Runshaw Institute of Skills and Enterprise)
  • Walsall College (leading the Black Country FE Innovation Service, with five colleges in the Black Country)

Rosie Peacock, Lead Specialist for Innovation Skills at Innovate UK said:

Further Education Colleges (FECs) are becoming increasingly important in our innovation ecosystems. As place-based anchor institutions, they have an important role to play in supporting local growth, making them well-positioned to increase the capacity and capability of local businesses.

“The current phase of the programme aims to deepen our understanding of FECs’ role within the innovation ecosystem and the practical barriers they face. We anticipate that their work will instigate real change within businesses by facilitating place-based innovation and business growth.”

Rosie continued: “Innovate UK aspires to supercharge innovation, boost productivity, stimulate economic growth, and create high-quality jobs, enriching the lives of local communities. In essence, the FEIF is about harnessing the power of place to foster innovation and drive positive change right where it is most needed.

“If you’re a business interested in innovating, then we encourage you to speak with your local college today to see how they can support your needs.”

To see how South Hampshire Business Innovation Centre can support your business to innovate and grow, please email [email protected]

For more information on South Hampshire College Group, visit:

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