LEP funding for ambitious businesses

Published 17th June 2014 at 2:15pm

This month the Chairman is featuring a ‘Guest Blog’ from David Grey, MBE (LEP Board Member and Chief Executive of Sheffield-based manufacturing group OSL Group Holdings Ltd) and Chris Scholey (LEP Board Member and Chairman of Doncaster and Bassetlaw NHS Foundation Trust).

The Sheffield City Region has one of the UK’s most successful Regional Growth Fund (RGF) programmes and we want to tell you what is making it so effective. We are going to tell you why our local programme is consistently outperforming other national programmes, and why ministers are talking about it in Parliament.

The LEP’s fund was built on the belief that there are hundreds of highly innovative SMEs in the Sheffield City Region that have the potential for much faster growth.

We believe that for owners and leaders of small business enterprises (SME) in the Sheffield City Region, the LEP’s RGF programme could be the difference between low-to-no-growth versus exponential growth, hundreds of new jobs and becoming a multinational.

As private sector members of the LEP Board, we are leading the LEP’s RGF programme “Unlocking Business Growth”. This programme is using £32 million of Government funds to boost the local economy by almost £200 million and create over 2,300 jobs.

So what is the deal for businesses? If you run an SME in the Sheffield City Region, and you have realistic ambitions to grow your business, you can apply to the LEP’s programme for a grant of £25,000 upwards. In return for this grant money, you will agree to create a number of jobs and secure some funding from other sources.

One example of a recent investment is Magnomatics, a green technology company which is developing advanced magnetic transmission systems and high-torque electrical machines for use in electric vehicles, trains and ships around the world.

Chris Kirby, Managing Director at Magnomatics said,

“The LEP’s RGF investment in Magnomatics is helping our company transition its innovative products into production for use in electric vehicles, trains and ships around the world and has created a number of new highly skilled jobs at our company.”

The LEP’s programme has been specifically designed to allow businesses to bid for smaller amounts – with our grants starting from £25,000. By offering a wider range of investments, the LEP can support a wider range of businesses, from innovative brewery and confectionary projects in rural areas through to the development leading edge advanced manufacturing programmes.

If this sounds like something worth exploring, your first port-of-call is our website where you will find details of your local authority business advisor. The local authority role in the programme is vital and the importance of local authority officer knowledge cannot be overstated. Our scheme has attracted high quality applicants from the breadth and depth of the City Region, with many successes telling us that the advice and support from their local authority was invaluable.

This year the LEP’s programme fund invested £400,000 in LION Trackhire in Bassetlaw. This enabled the company to grow their exports into German and European markets, enabling the business to invest £2.2 million and create 30 new jobs, almost doubling their existing workforce.

LION Trackhire’s Director Dale Robinson said,

“The LEP’s local RGF programme has given our fast growing company the ability to grow even faster – creating more jobs and more exports in 2014.”

Once you’ve made contact with your local authority, you’ll start putting together a business case which will set out details of your project including how you will invest the money and details of other funding you already have. We will also need to know how many jobs your project will create.

This is an example of where public-private sector partnership is working incredibly well, as the local authority ensures that applications are of the highest possible quality before they appears before the RGF Programme Board – a sort of ‘Dragons Den’ for local RGF decisions. Our Board is made up of private sector business people who have experience in what works in this area and know how to spot a good opportunity. Also, because SMEs know that their plan is going be assessed by an panel of experts with a reputation for rigour, the quality of applications we receive is far higher than would otherwise be the case.

We have already paid out £13 million of funding to local businesses and we expect to have paid out the full £32 million by March 2016. We know that for businesses confidence is everything, which is why with our programme we will be clear about when you can expect payment, so you can make investments ahead knowing the money is on its way.

If you’re interested in growing your business then we want to hear from you. Visit www.sheffieldcityregion.org.uk/rgf

This article was originally written for the Yorkshire Post and appeared in print in the Business section on Tuesday 10 June 2014.

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