A new executive director of innovation has been appointed by the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) to drive forward innovative business activity across the East of England – the UK’s ‘ideas region’. 

Dr Paul May takes up the new post on Monday 2 February leading on EEDA’s strategic priority of helping more businesses turn innovative ideas into commercial realities. A Cambridge graduate, Paul brings a wealth of business and entrepreneurial experience to EEDA, ranging from technology and development roles at IBM and Sharp to board level executive positions at several global-leading technology start-ups.  

EEDA’s chief executive Deborah Cadman, said: 

“I am delighted to welcome Paul May to EEDA’s senior management team as executive director of innovation. His experience of advising central government on priorities for innovation policy, as well as chairing and leading a variety of technology-focussed businesses will be invaluable to this important role. 

“The East of England has a long and proud history of producing world-class innovation. Global research conglomerates like Unilever and Astrium call our region ‘home’, and there are countless smaller businesses hoping to emulate their success by working on new projects and bringing new products to market.  

“Particularly during these tougher economic times, it’s absolutely essential that the region’s innovative businesses – whatever shape, size or sector – are supported to ensure that they put innovation at the top of their agenda to remain competitive and ultimately contribute to the future prosperity of the regional economy. Paul is an experienced businessman, and will bring this expertise to our strategic priority making to better support innovative businesses across the East of England. I think it’s so important to look at things from a private sector point of view when setting public sector policies, and Paul brings this to a critical role for our region.”

Dr May said: 

“'Stimulating even more innovation across a region that is already steeped in such history is an exciting challenge, and one that I’m really looking forward too. The East of England has rightfully assumed the title of the UK’s ‘ideas region’, and can boast some of the greatest businesses, academics and research facilities in the world. But we can always do more, and one of the big items on my agenda is brokering closer ties between industry and academia.”  

'Innovation is not optional for successful businesses – it lies at the heart of competitive advantage. I want to increase connections between companies, within and across sectors, to foster innovative collaborations and ensure that businesses are better equipped to commercialise new products, services and business models." 

The East of England attracts more research and development-based investment than any other region in the UK, but the ratio of converting ‘idea to product’ is relatively low. EEDA recently launched a pilot project which offers ‘innovation vouchers’ to small businesses across the region. The vouchers will entitle those companies to £3,000 worth of one-to-one collaboration with academics from the region’s top universities, helping them to develop ideas.The deadline for applications to EEDA’s Innovation Vouchers scheme is due to close at 5pm on Monday 2 February. Visit www.eeda.org.uk/innovationvouchers to find out more.   

EEDA has a strong offering for innovative businesses developing new, exciting technologies, all of which can be found on the Business Map – http://www.bizmapeast.co.uk/. Through Finance for Innovation, for example, there is £11 million worth of grants available for companies to test the commercial viability of their new business ideas and research or develop new processes and products to take them a step closer to market.