A view of the Birmingham skyline from Bartley Green.
The fund will capitalise on Birmingham’s rapidly growing business/academia/policy ecosystem

The University of Birmingham, together with the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP), are launching a pilot fund to drive innovation across Business, Professional and Financial Services (BPFS). Building on consultation with regional BPFS leaders, the fund will capitalise on Birmingham’s rapidly growing business/academia/policy ecosystem, to support exciting new discoveries in the City Centre’s emerging innovation district.

Businesses, working with an academic lead, can apply for grants up to £4,000 to deliver innovation across products, services or processes. Pilot projects might include technology development and transfer, initiatives to support workflows, or programmes to support innovative approaches to employee diversity and wellbeing. The University of Birmingham Business Engagement team will help interested businesses to form academic links in preparation of an application, where needed.

Applications are open for twelve months from July 8th 2021. All projects will need to be completed within the year, with aggregate outputs informing how best to drive outcomes for successful innovation in the sector and region. Findings from the successful pilot programmes will be compiled into a white paper highlighting successes and providing case studies to be used as evidence in development of future regional innovation deals.

Tim Pile, Chair of GBSLEP comments “We are delighted to be working with the University of Birmingham to launch this pilot. GBSLEP’s collaboration with one of the region’s leading knowledge base reflects our unique structure of bringing together the academic sector, local government and businesses to create targeted projects that will drive forwards inclusive economic growth. This fund will help stimulate closer working to support innovation within our region’s largest sector - Business Professional and Financial Services. Crucially, by investing in innovation we are contributing to the attractiveness of the West Midlands as a global centre for next generation services, now and in the future."

Tony Randle, Partner at Shoosmiths and LawTech lead for WM SuperTech, adds: “Shoosmiths and the University of Birmingham have recently embarked on an ambitious project with AI technology specialist, ThoughtRiver. The initial outcomes from the proof of concept, focusing on AI in legal processes, demonstrated significant time savings and risk mitigation benefits. This case study is a prime example of how business and academia can work together to solve problems more effectively. Now, with Shoosmiths as a founding supporter of SuperTech – the first professional services technology (ProfTech) supercluster in the UK – we hope this fund drives similar technology-led productivity gains within BPFS organisations, as well as across service and process development.”

Simon Collinson, Deputy Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Regional Engagement at the University of Birmingham, comments: “This fund demonstrates how we are strengthening the University’s civic role in the region, focusing on innovative approaches to accelerate the region’s economic growth in an inclusive way. As the largest contributor to jobs and GVA in the region, the BPFS sector is particularly important. Our city centre presence, The Exchange, enables us to participate even more effectively at the heart of the city-region innovation ecosystem.”

To learn more about stimulating innovation in professional services in the region, insights into working with academia to drive productivity gains, and how to access the fund, join us at a webinar on July 21st 8.30-9.30am with Anne Green, Professor of Regional Economic Development at City-REDI, and James Sharp, Business Engagement Partner, both from the University of Birmingham; Hilary Smyth-Allen, BPFS Sector & Modern Services Lead at the GBSLEP; Tony Randle of Shoosmiths; and Tim Pullan, CEO of ThoughtRiver.

Full details of the fund, application process and eligibility criteria are available.

For more information please email Hasan Salim Patel, Communications Manager (Arts, Law and Social Sciences) on +44 (0)7966 311 409 or out of hours office number on +44 (0)7580 744943.

About the University of Birmingham

The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions. Its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers, teachers and more than 6,500 international students from over 150 countries.


The Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP) is a partnership of business, public sector and further and higher education. Its mission is to drive sustainable economic growth across the city-region, creating jobs and improving the quality of life for everyone.

The GBSLEP area spans nine local authority areas: Birmingham, Solihull, East Staffordshire, Cannock Chase, Lichfield, Tamworth, Redditch, Bromsgrove and Wyre Forest. It is home to over two million people, an estimated 848,000 jobs and an economy worth £44.5 billion. Since 2010, the government has awarded GBSLEP £479 million to invest in a range of projects to grow the local economy. These include transport infrastructure, skills development, business support, innovation, and cultural and creative assets. GBSLEP is on course to secure more than £791 million of additional public and private investments, which are on target to create 41,000 jobs and 15,000 new homes.

Since 2010, more than 162,000 new private sector jobs have been created across Greater Birmingham and Solihull. More than 7,000 businesses have been supported by the GBSLEP Growth Hub in the past two years.

About ThoughtRiver

ThoughtRiver is a global technology company on a mission to make all contracts easy to understand by everyone. The problem today is that billions of contracts are signed every year where one or both parties don’t properly understand what they are signing up to. As a result contracting is slow and painful and creates a drag on the economy. ThoughtRiver is changing that with its Contract Acceleration Platform (CAP) that uses AI to quickly review a legal contract and tell you what part of it is risky and which parts are ok. ThoughtRiver then creates a collaborative online issues list to help the parties quickly resolve any issues and sign the deal. Companies such as PwC, G4S, and DB Schenker rely on ThoughtRiver to increase their deal velocity and leading law firms like Shoosmiths, Eversheds Sutherland, and Taylor Vinters are using ThoughtRiver to provide truly innovative new legal services to their clients.