pounds 1m Vision for faster designing.
INNOVATIVE businesses in north west Wales are tapping into a college's expertise to speed up the design and prototyping of new products.
A new three-year pounds 1m funding from Europe has enabled the team at Coleg Menai's Bangor campus to strengthen its links with the local business community.
Canolfan Arloesi Menai/Menai Innovation Centre - part of the college's Faculty of Services to Business - has secured funding from the EU's Ireland/Wales Cross-border Programme 4A for a project called Vision run in conjunction with a partner college in Dublin.
Staff working on the Vision project provide direct and practical assistance to businesses in moving a design concept from the initial idea stage through to market.
Through the scheme, eligible local businesses and entrepreneurs will receive up to pounds 30,000 worth of expert support to assist with ideas, designs, prototypes and even initial product runs.
CAM centre manager Dyfan Rhys Searell said Vision built on the success of an earlier Europe-supported programme that offered small firms the chance to employ services ranging from concept development, through product design, prototype production and sourcing initial manufacture.
"The programme has deeper and more strategic aims than the previous Celtnet project with targets for new products taken to market and jobs and SMEs created," he said.
"We are there to help make it happen for those SMEs with viable, innovative projects, but we are also looking to engage with companies that can make a bigger impact."
Among the companies CAM has worked with in the development of new products is Pwllheli-based tools firm Carl Kammerling International. Charles Whitfield, CK's new product development manager, said the company had worked with the centre on a number of projects, the largest of them involving the development of a new range of screwdriver handles.
"We did some end-user research and CAM used the results in the design of the new products. We made some refinements and then moved on to rapid prototyping," said Mr Whitfield.
He added that CAM had also helped provide 3D CAD design for use in the manufacture of the new products.
Another of CAM's past clients is Anglesey-based Marco Cable Management, a manufacturer of uPVC trunking.
Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones visited CAM to seek how the centre is helping companies in Anglesey, Gwynedd, Conwy and Denbighshire.
He said: "The project will contribute to creating jobs, businesses and cutting-edge new products - and demonstrates how European funding provides a valuable boost to the Welsh economy at this challenging time."
Deputy First Minister Ieuan Wyn Jones (left) at Coleg Menai's CAM project launch with CAM manager Dyfan Searell Picture: ROBERT PARRY JONES