Small and medium-sized businesses across the SEMLEP region are set to benefit from the research and development expertise of a new Cranfield University-led programme of support launched today.

IMAGE (Innovation to Manufacturing, Aerospace and Green Economy) is funded by the European Regional Development Fund for the next three years and will see hundreds of businesses across the region given access to the research, know-how and resource based at Cranfield University, the University of Bedfordshire and other universities in the South East Midlands region.

Funding through the programme is available to support small and medium-sized businesses to develop new technologies, processes and services and to enhance their ‘green business’ credentials.

IMAGE has a particular focus on three industrial sectors: manufacturing and advanced technologies, aerospace; and the green economy.

Professor Tom Stephenson, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation, Cranfield University, said: “The small and medium-sized businesses we work with at Cranfield tell us how valuable they find their relationship with us. Through us, they are able to get access to world-leading research facilities, strategic business expertise and knowledge exchange.

“Understandably for many small businesses with competing priorities, there is often not a spare resource available to undertake development vital for helping their business grow. I’m delighted that this Cranfield-led programme will help businesses across the SEMLEP region access types of support not always available to them.”

Stephen Catchpole, CEO of SEMLEP, said: "We’re delighted to support Cranfield University, working in partnership with the University of Bedfordshire, with ERDF-funding. Manufacturing and advanced technology including aerospace is one of the key sectors identified in SEMLEP’s Strategic Economic Plan as having potential for growth in the South East Midlands area. By bringing together expertise from the universities, the IMAGE project will enable small businesses throughout the supply chain to benefit from the high-quality and specialist knowledge and research, facilities and equipment we have in our region."

Dr Gilu George, Senior project lead for IMAGE at Cranfield University, said: “Through this £1.9 million project which will run until December 2019, we’re giving small and medium businesses subsidised access to state-of-the-art equipment and technical expertise based at local universities. Through the programme, we aim to encourage and increase the competitiveness and innovation of local SMEs through tailored advice, access to world-class facilities, management coaching workshops and strategic insight.”

For further details about the support available for small and medium-sized businesses in the SEMLEP region through the IMAGE programme, please contact

Notes for editors

About Cranfield University

Cranfield is an exclusively postgraduate university that is a global leader for education and transformational research in technology and management.

Cranfield has mutually-beneficial relationships with around 1,500 companies and organisations from across the world through its industry partnerships, applied research projects and executive education and professional development programmes.

About the European Regional Development Fund

The IMAGE programme has received £946,439 from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Department for Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund.

Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit


SEMLEP is the Local Enterprise Partnership for the South East Midlands. Led by business, we are a partnership of local authorities, universities and the private sector to drive growth across the South East Midlands area. For more information visit