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Aston University’s *free Artificial Intelligence support for SMEs now available until May 2023.

Following on from the success of the first three years, we are pleased to announce that Aston University’s Think Beyond Data project has been granted an extension by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

The project, part funded by the ERDF at a total of £1.4m, aims to support businesses to make better use of their data and use this to develop new services and products. Phase one of the project generated an anticipated future economic impact valued at £4m GVA while helping over 60 SMEs. Run by both academic and professional staff at the university, the team are excited to be providing artificial intelligence support to an additional 54 companies in the region by May 2023.

This extension comes at a crucial time for local SMEs who are in need of  free support to aid recovery during this Covid-19 recovery period. The Think Beyond Data project will provide benefits such as:

  • Automating and scaling business processes
  • Providing better and more efficient business solutions
  • Gaining new insights and deeper understanding of their business

The objectives of the project align to the government’s digital strategy,  locally the team will focus on working with the Marches, Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEPs, and Growth Hubs to support SMEs with their ability to use Data Models and Machine Learning to aid large scale growth and overcome real business problems.

News of the extension follows a recent accolade awarded by the university’s Vice Chancellor Alec Cameron to the team for Outstanding Business Engagement and/or Innovation. Mr Mark Smith, Executive Director of Business Engagement at Aston University said:

“I’m delighted that the Think Beyond Data project has been extended. In the post COVID landscape, understanding business data and being able to use it to address business opportunities will be an essential skill. SMEs across the West Midlands can use Aston University to unlock the secrets of growth held within their own data.”

*Eligibility criteria applies, please see website for details

Notes to Editors:

About Aston University

Founded in 1895 and a University since 1966, Aston is a long established university led by its three main beneficiaries – students, business and the professions, and our region and society. Aston University is located in Birmingham and at the heart of a vibrant city and the campus houses all the university’s academic, social and accommodation facilities for our students. Professor Alec Cameron is the Vice-Chancellor & Chief Executive.

For enquiries regarding this announcement, please email

For more information about this project visit

About the European Regional Development Fund

The project valued at £1.4m has been part funded by the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit

About Midlands Engine

The government is committed to making the Midlands an Engine for Growth in the UK, increasing economic growth and improving the quality of life for everyone. The Midlands is home to over 10 million people and over 780,000 businesses. Its economy is worth £217.7 billion.

Alongside over €750 million of European Regional Development Fund support for businesses and communities across the Midlands, the government has awarded £1.9 billion in three rounds of Growth Deals.

UK Government Digital Strategy

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