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A University of Chester programme supporting new product development and Innovation for SMEs part funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

What is it?

The Innovation to Commercialisation Programme (I2C) is supported and partly funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The I2C Programme seeks to help eligible SME businesses to introduce Innovation into their organisations and advance commercialisation of new products, processes and services to the marketplace.

Based at the University of Chester’s Thornton Science Park, the Programme will enable managed access to the Faculty of Science and Engineering resources together with the I2C team of engineers and specialist equipment, that SMEs would not otherwise have access.

The I2C Programme Pathway

Stage 1: Foundation

The organisational tools for successful new product development and introduces Computer Assisted Development tools, advanced manufacturing and rapid prototyping concepts. Helping to ensure a systematic approach to innovation readiness, concept generation, development and validation for an organisation to effectively create, develop and benefit from new products, processes and services:

  • New product development strategies
  • Idea generation and screening
  • Concept development and product validation
  • Product tools and techniques
  • Commercialisation

This will be delivered through two 1 day workshops and is essential to progress to the higher levels of support within the project.

At the end of this stage, we expect the business to have a set of organisational tools, skills and knowledge to introduce a systematic process for effective innovation development and process management.

Stage 2: Technical Intervention

Access to specialist equipment, academics and bespoke support services. A team of engineers will support concept development with a range of tools such as Computer Aided Design, Finite Element Analysis and Computational Fluid Dynamics to show the proof of concept. Jointly agreed innovation plan setting out scope of development, timescales and deliverables leading to proof of concept. Access to University expertise, equipment and software tools which may include:

  • Computer modelling tools such as CAD, Finite Element Analysis, Computational Fluid Dynamics software
  • Electronic and Mechanical Engineering development
  • 3D Visualisation
  • Rapid prototyping, modelling and simulation
  • Prototyping development
  • Design for manufacture
  • Advanced manufacture – 3D printing

Stage 3: Advanced Intervention

Support for prototype development and testing as well as assistance to resource external support and funding needed to fully develop the product. Innovation will be well advanced at this stage and it is anticipated that the business understands the innovation pathways within their organisation and have exploited, at some level, the facilities and support offered by the University.

Support for prototype development and testing as well as signposting to external resources needed to fully develop the product and to commercialise:

  • Prototype manufacture
  • Testing
  • Partnerships
  • Network introductions to advance manufacturing facilities, fabricators and other resources
  • Funding routes
  • Specialist consultants
  • Niche technical skills

At the end of this stage it would be expected that the product would be advancing to full commercialisation.

An assessment will be undertaken whether further enhancements can be made or whether sign posting to further support or funding is needed.

Introducing the Thornton Design Hub

The Thornton Design Hub will be the focal point of the I2C Programme and will be organising networking events and bespoke industry training to enhance the I2C Project and promote design and innovation in the region:

  • Networking events with leading innovation guest speakers
  • Master classes to provide essential business skills for successful new product development
  • Advice from the Thornton Design Hub to develop your ideas and concepts
  • Assistance with initial design considerations to proof of concept using CAD, FEM and CFD with data analysis tools
  • Technical team – mechanical; electronic and control software
  • Access within the I2C Programme to Solidworks, National Instruments, SpaceClaim and Design Spark software
  • Industry training for software tools
  • Factory visits for Advanced Manufacturing
  • Help finding other support options and partners
  • Resource and network to find outside help to “make” prototypes
  • Network of Advanced Manufacturing and fabrication workshops e.g. Daresbury 3D printing
  • Innovation workshops


Eligibility criteria to the project:

  • SME – less than €50 million turnover and less than 250 employees or an enterprise about to start-up
  • Active within Cheshire and Warrington catchment area
  • UK ownership criteria

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