NORTH Yorkshire has been dubbed a "breeding ground for innovation" after small to medium-sized businesses across the county received more than £4m in awards.

Advice and guidance from Business Link York and North Yorkshire has helped companies obtain financial assistance to grow.

Since 1998, Business Link advisor Roger Benson has helped a total of 100 businesses - 90 per cent of applicants - receive Department of Trade and Industry-sponsored research and development grants, representing a 30 per cent higher success rate than the national average.

Formerly called Smart awards, the grants have helped businesses develop technologically innovative projects with funding of between £9,000 and £150,000 each.

Companies in fields as diverse as seafood, horticulture, technology, martial arts and medicine have been helped during this time.

Andrew Brown, director of Aircraft Design Bureau, in Boroughbridge, North Yorkshire, received a Smart award in 2002 to fund the development of an unmanned vertical take-off and landing vehicle.

He said: "Without (Mr Benson's) substantial expertise, I doubt I would have stood as good a chance of achieving the award."

Electronic materials business Peratech won a £43,000 Smart feasibility award six years ago. The company is based in Darlington.