University launches virtual programme to support Cornish businesses through COVID pandemic

The University of Plymouth is launching a virtual support programme for Cornish businesses as they continue their battle for survival in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With its seasonal economy and reliance on income from tourists, 2020 has been an especially tough year for companies of all sizes in the county.

But with a second national lockdown in progress, and a more challenging winter than ever about to begin, supporting businesses has never been more crucial.

With this in mind, the University is hosting a series of sessions through a Virtual Pop-up Centre Facebook group. Building on the success of physical Pop-up Innovation Centres that previously opened in high streets and industrial estates across the county, the virtual centre takes the services of knowledge exchange, collaboration, community and support to businesses digitally.

Open to all sectors of the Cornish business community, it will highlight the University’s expertise in business support and knowledge exchange as well as making company bosses and entrepreneurs aware of various funding sources currently available.

The live sessions, the first of which will take place on Friday this week, are being led by the Acceleration Through Innovation 2 (ATI2) programme.

A £3.4 million project, led by the University and part-funded through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), its aim is to drive business innovation in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

Since its launch in 2017, it has engaged over 770 businesses, awarded 55 innovation grants with a total value in excess of £1.3 million and helped numerous businesses across the county to bring new products, services and processes to the market.

Jo Hancock, ATI2 Programme Manager, said:

“As highlighted by Simon Reeve in his current BBC series, many small businesses in Cornwall are struggling due to the pandemic and the national lockdowns. However, there is support available which could potentially help them look beyond the current climate and at ways they can adapt for the future. This series of interactive virtual sessions will allow us to further understand the restraints of lockdown in Cornwall and how the University’s resources can support the community.”

Adrian Dawson, Director of Research and Innovation, added:

“Over many years, the University has played a key role in providing access to finance, facilities, knowledge, skilled people and a culture that fosters innovation. In these unprecedented and uncertain times, we believe that expertise could be a game-changer in enabling businesses to survive, and also to thrive. Whether you have worked with us before or not, we would encourage anyone to make use of the Virtual Pop-Up Centre and see the tailored support we can offer.”

Supporting its civic agenda, the University has a long track record of driving innovation and ingenuity through its partnerships with the Cornish business community.

That includes its three award-winning Innovation Centres – in Pool, Tremough and Truro – which have enabled dozens of small enterprise to develop through dedicated business facilities and support.

This new programme of live sessions will continue that offer and help businesses to access resources, knowledge and insight that will be vital for their success over the coming months.

It also comes just days after the University launched a new £200,000 Research and Development Solutions Fund, designed to stimulate industrial collaborations and knowledge transfer opportunities during the ongoing pandemic.

The live sessions are being supported by the Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly Growth Hub, who can offer businesses a free review to help them access other support available in the county.

To find out more, visit: https://www.facebook.com/groups/virtualpopupcentre.

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