How Two Leeds SMEs Fast-Tracked Growth & Made Their Ideas a Reality With a Little Help From Connecting Innovation

· Ali Turner · Business

West Yorkshire has a rich innovation landscape – and these two businesses prove it.


Connecting Innovation is delivered by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and is funded by the European Regional Development Fund for England and the Local Growth Fund. Find out more.

From developing game-changing products to overcoming technical challenges, find out how Connecting Innovation helped these SMEs forge ahead.

Innovation fuels growth. Not just on a business level, but on an economic level. It drives investment, it bolsters our reputation and it makes us more resilient – which is why the West Yorkshire Combined Authority offers a range of services designed to support it. And Connecting Innovation is one of them. Find out how two Leeds SMEs used this free support service to fast-track and turn their ideas into realities.

Helping young people to manage diabetes

DigiBete is an innovative social enterprise. Working with the Paediatric Diabetes Team at Leeds Children’s Hospital, they developed a collection of patient-led and clinically-approved resources to help young people manage diabetes. Available through their online platform, they’re designed to extend the reach of clinical teams online. As a result, their app is now used in more than 90% of NHS paediatric clinics throughout England and Wales.

The DigiBete app has been so successful that it’s now fully supported by the NHS, but during the development process, they turned to Connecting Innovation for help. They were looking for ways to develop two-way communication within the app and wanted to know what support was available locally. It led to them securing £11,182.50 in grant funding to source the specialist expertise needed to push forward with development.

“We discovered so much from them, and went on to successfully apply for a Kickstart Grant, which has enabled us to bring the two-way communication technology to our app much, much quicker,” John Hughes, Director at DigiBete CIC, explained. And while their aim has always been to increase education, awareness and training for Type 1, they’re now exploring how a similar approach could work for other long-term or life-long conditions.

Solving the non-recyclable plastic waste issue

Concrete Blocks

Ecoblockcrete is a pioneering concrete manufacturing firm based in Leeds. Instead of relying on the traditional aggregates used in the building trade, they use black plastic, which means they’re simultaneously meeting global demand for green concrete and developing a solution to the global non-recyclable plastic waste issue – it’s a win-win. During the development process, they sought advice from their Connecting Innovation advisor.

“Working with Connecting Innovation really opened our eyes to how we could achieve our goal of developing the Ecoblock and bring it to market,” Dan Herman, Business Support at Ecoblockcrete, explained. “Without their support and knowledge it would have taken us much longer and we wouldn’t have been aware of all the support available in the local area. We applied for and were awarded a Kickstart Grant which really pushed forward the testing and development of the Ecoblock.”

They now have a patent pending on an innovative new way to replace raw materials like sand and gravel with low grade plastics that are typically either incinerated or put into landfill, and believe it or not, this unique aggregate conforms to BS EN 12620. Not only are they helping the manufacturing sector in its mission to become carbon neutral, but they’re also reducing the production costs of bricks and making construction more affordable.

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