THE business incubation network owned by the University of Sussex has secured a £600,000 grant.

The money from the European Regional Development Fund will part-fund the launch of a new open innovation network across the ‘Coast to Capital’ region run by Sussex Innovation.

BRAIN – the Business Research Academic Innovation Network – will run until 2020.

It will help innovative local start-ups and researchers to connect and collaborate with the large organisations and corporates based in the region.

The partnerships will be boosted by the commercialisation team based at Sussex Innovation’s two hubs, on the university campus in Falmer, and in East Croydon.

Sussex Innovation will look to build on its existing portfolio of product and service innovations currently being developed in the region and further afield, and match these with relevant commercial partners.

The Coast to Capital LEP covers Brighton and Hove, Croydon, East Surrey, West Sussex and the Lewes District.

Mike Herd, executive director of the Sussex Innovation Centre, said: “Most large organisations are keen to develop new ideas but have no process for bringing in innovations from outside.

“Internal research and development certainly has value but it tends to be incremental in nature, rather than creating a step change within the business like an entirely new idea can.

“It’s very hard to dedicate time and resources to more disruptive ideas, because you need to focus on what’s most essential to the business.

“The biggest, most successful companies realise this – it’s why initiatives like Google Campus and EDF Blue Lab have started to appear.

“But there are still lots of large businesses that can’t afford to risk that kind of investment.

“£BRAIN will provide a network for those businesses to interact with innovators from outside of their current sector, introducing truly disruptive technologies, products and services.”

Partners will be expected to take part in a process of collaborative product development – not simply signing retail agreements but acting as ‘customer mentors’ to help shape the progress of new products and services.

As well as making direct introductions, Sussex Innovation will host a series of roundtable discussions and pitch events, starting in the autumn, to identify areas of opportunity around specific sectors of technology.

Jonathan Sharrock, chief executive at Coast to Capital, said: “Sussex Innovation’s vision for the BRAIN project to grow the local innovation sector through supporting small to medium sized businesses aligns well with the aims of Coast to Capital.

“It is exciting to think that innovations with a truly global reach could be developed on our doorstep through BRAIN.”