Creative Fuse North East (CFNE), now in its second phase, is a programme funded by Arts and Humanities Research Council, the European Regional Development Fund and Arts Council England. It is exploring the ‘fusion’ of creativity, culture and digital technology in the North East, and is delivered by the region’s five universities – Durham, Northumbria, Sunderland, Teesside, and led by Newcastle University. In phase 1 (2016 – 2019) the consortium delivered innovation support and expertise to 277 SMEs and provided innovation grants totalling £340 000 to 30 businesses in the form of academic/business Innovation Pilot Projects. CFNE Phase 2 brings together the five universities again and seeks to expand the programme’s reach at a time when SMEs, especially sole-traders and micro-businesses, are in particular need of support. Northumbria’s action research focusses on the role of design-led methods and mechanisms for innovation support. An example of this type of support is the Get Ready to Innovate innovation-readiness programme developed by the Northumbria team as part of Phase 1. This programme is now being employed by the team, together with local partners, to support new enterprise creation in Armenia and Birmingham, Alabama.