Inventors who are worried about getting their ideas off the ground are being given a helping hand by development agency One NorthEast.

Its Innovation Action Plan provides businesses with advice, information and skills, and help with research, development and proposal preparation.

The agency's strategy is backed by £8.9m from the Regional Innovation Fund.

One NorthEast, a sponsor of this year's Spirit of innovation Awards, will create new investment funds, support the approach to centres of excellence in key technology areas, research high-tech business opportunities and increase the retention of graduates in the region.

Neil Mundy, the agency's director of integration, said: "We are trying to create a network of support in the North-East to help innovators get their ideas off the ground.

"The Spirit of Innovation Awards is a great platform for innovators to test the water for their ideas, and as an organisation dedicated to the promotion and support of innovation, we are delighted to be a sponsor."

He said: "Our aim is to create wealth in the region by matching innovators with experienced business people who have access to investment capital."

David Howell, operations manager at the North East of England Business and Innovation Centre, in Sunderland, said: "The Spirit of innovation Awards need the support of companies like One NorthEast who are introducing initiatives to support innovation."

Entries to this year's awards include a new design of wind turbines, a keyboard station suitable for people who don't touch type, export software and a butane gas lantern. For details, or an entry form, contact Victoria Walton on 0191- 516 6045. Entries close at the end of this month.