In our latest Spotlight On feature we chat to Suhail Aslam, Innovate Durham Project Manager. Innovate Durham is part of Teesside University, which has exhibited at EMCON for the last couple of years.

Tell us more about your team/programme

Innovate Durham is led by Teesside University, with support from the ERDF, and works to help SMEs in the region do new things in their business.

The funded support service helps companies overcome the obstacles associated with developing new products, entering new markets and improving systems and processes to become more efficient.

Our services include fully-funded innovation advice and support such as identifying innovation gaps and opportunities, technical consultancy on innovation challenges and bid-writing support to access research and innovation funding pots.

We also offer knowledge exchange internships and graduate placements which offers recruitment support and 50% funding towards the cost of a graduate who will work in the business.

We provide businesses with an advisor who guides companies through the process and signposts them to the relevant services to ensure that each business is given a bespoke package of support to help them innovate and grow.

Innovate Durham was developed from its highly successful sister programme Innovate Tees Valley which anticipates supporting more than 300 businesses in the Tees Valley region by the end of July 2019.

Innovate Durham is a service available to growth-oriented businesses in County Durham employing fewer than 250 staff and with an annual turnover that does not exceed €50m per annum. For more information visit

You were recently involved in EMCON 2018. What was that like for you?

We have attended EMCON (or Oktoberfest) for many years and our experience has always been very positive and useful.

It is a fantastic opportunity to meet with companies and individuals to discuss current and new project opportunities at the University and also understand what the SMEs and individuals are doing in their respective organisations and roles.

The event is always well attended and the breakout sessions provide useful insight into what is happening regionally.

What about support to the business community. Is there much available from the University?

From start-up to scale-up to multi-national, Teesside University offers a range of support for businesses.

As an anchor institution we see it as our mission to drive economic growth in the region and beyond.

The University has helped to create hundreds of start-ups. Launchpad, our start-up engine provides advice, support and co-working and office space to early-stage companies.

In addition, through the DigitalCity initiative carried out in partnership with the Tees Valley Combined Authority, the University is helping to build the region’s digital capability.

The new Teesside University Business School is also working closely with industry to help build the business leaders of tomorrow, as well as helping ambitious companies to scale and grow through its LEAP 50 programme.

Our Centre for Professional and Executive Development (CPED) at our Darlington campus provides research-informed continuing professional development, from short courses to full qualifications, to help meet the North East’s demand for thousands of skilled jobs.

Also at Darlington is the £22.3m National Horizons Centre, which is due to open its doors in Spring next year and will drive growth in the regional and national bioscience industries.

Through our research and knowledge transfer activities we also collaborate with businesses to provide expert support. We also work closely with industry to ensure that our courses are aligned to their needs and our graduates are work-ready with the perfect skillset to help their companies grow.

For more information on business support at Teesside University visit