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Digital adoption in UK SMEs backed by £4.5M university investment

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Three universities have been awarded a share of funding to drive digital innovation across UK SMEs, as part of the HNCDI programme

The Hartree National Centre for Digital Innovation (HNCDI) programme seeks to improve digital adoption across businesses, targeting funding and support toward UK SMEs – small and medium-sized enterprises.

Delivering competitive advantage to these businesses, the programme will develop Hartree Centre SME hubs which will be funded for three years, creating digital support tools readily available and accessible to UK SMEs.

So far, three UK universities have been awarded a share of £4.5 million to fund SMEs and will develop their regional hubs for the HNCDI programme, located within Sci-Tech Daresbury in the Liverpool City Region.

The universities receiving funding to develop the SME hubs are:

Cardiff University
Newcastle University
Ulster University

Aiming to increase friendly competition and digital adoption growth in businesses, these universities will train their regional UK SMEs on digital technology for adoption, using expertise from the Science and Technology Facilities Council’s (STFC).

The digital adoption expertise support includes:

Data analytics
Visual computing
Artificial intelligence (AI)

This exchange of knowledge with UK businesses will enhance their productivity, innovation, and growth, and in turn, benefit the country’s overall digital transformation and industry-led research and innovation.

The £210 million programme for AI and quantum computing

Other than the SME hubs, the Hartree Centre will also be receiving a further £210 million for a five-year programme for more innovation in computing and research.

This money is funding and housing the collaboration between the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and IBM, a cloud and AI company, within STFC’s Hartree Centre.

The government and UKRI are collectively investing £172 million over five years, met with a £38 million in-kind contribution from IBM.

“Turning great science and technology into great business

Minister of State at the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology, George Freeman, said: “The UK has always been at the cutting edge of some of the most important technologies of tomorrow, but too often, we’ve failed to translate that unrivalled expertise into practical tools and resources which can benefit our wider business communities.

“That’s why, in 2021, we committed to bringing our brightest minds together in fields including AI and Quantum, through a £172 million investment to establish the Hartree National Centre for Digital Innovation.

“The funding announced today will go even further to turn great science and technology into great business, providing an unrivalled network of support for those SMEs who are adopting emerging technologies.

“These new hubs will allow us to target support at a local level, while laying the foundations for a larger support ecosystem connecting companies right across the UK.”

Putting digital innovation at the heart of future economic sustainability

Professor Kate Royse, Director of the STFC Hartree Centre, said: “It’s important to us that support for digital technology adoption reaches as many companies across the UK as possible, and the Hartree Centre SME hubs will enhance that regional access.

“The partner organisations we’ve selected have a wealth of data science and AI expertise that builds on our own and will be key to the Hartree National Centre for Digital Innovation growing our SME networks and supporting more organisations to upskill and carry out digital transformation.

“The SME hubs will help the Hartree Centre support the UK to put digital innovation at the heart of our future economic sustainability.”

Professor Mark Thomson, STFC Executive Chair, added: “The HNCDI programme is an outstanding example of what can be achieved when we connect leading minds in industry with those in science and technology.

“These SME hubs will enable UK businesses to turn burgeoning technologies such as supercomputing and artificial intelligence into new capabilities”

“These SME hubs will enable UK businesses to turn burgeoning technologies such as supercomputing and artificial intelligence into new capabilities that will give them a competitive edge in the global marketplace.

“The networks they create will help to unlock the immense potential of our SME’s and contribute to STFC’s mission of creating a diverse ecosystem for innovation in science and technology for the benefit of all society.”

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