SCR Growth Hub
Both the SCR Strategic Economic Plan (“SEP”) and the SCR ESIF Strategy argued that a latent demand for high-quality business support and advice is a barrier to the growth of many of our ~44,000 SMEs. Both documents therefore set out our ambition to put in place a ‘world-class’ business support offer, structured around the principles of a ‘Growth Hub’ i.e. a business support offer that:
- offers a consistent service across the SCR – ending the ‘postcode lottery’ of business support;
- is business-centric, designed as a partnership between the public and private sectors in order to maximise quantum and quality of business support available to companies across the SCR;
- prioritises publically funded interventions on the basis of economic impact i.e. net additional growth and / or employment footprint;
- complements and never displaces the offer of the private sector. Publically funded products will only be commissioned where there is demonstrable evidence of market failure.
A Growth Hub ‘Task and Finish Group’ was asked by the LEP Board to:
- develop the principles set out in the SEP and ESIF strategy into a ‘target operating model’ for the Growth Hub;
- develop a medium-term funding plan for a Growth Hub;
- galvanise a ‘consortium’ of partners to deliver a Growth Hub ‘pilot in 2015/16.
The SCR’s plan is to:
- deliver the most ambitious, business-led Growth Hub in the country including (from a business perspective) a near-total removal of internal boundaries within the City Region, so that every growing business in the SCR gets the support it needs to thrive;
- provide genuine strategic private sector leadership of the Hub via the Business Growth Board;
- act as an exemplar, using innovative evaluation techniques to ensure Government is able to make evidence-based decisions about how the business support landscape could be improved in other areas and deliver better outcomes for the country as a whole;
- act as an exemplar for a new, mature approach to partnership working with Government by sharing best practice in real time via a fully integrated Hub that combines the best of local and national business support, and thereby delivers real value for money by eliminating duplication and waste.
The Growth Hub Pilot
The longer-term vision is for the Growth Hub to be the source of publically backed business support in the SCR.
On 16th February 2015 the SCR Combined Authority agreed:
- to approve the use of £500,000 finding secured in through Growth Deal in order to deliver the Growth Hub pilot in 2015/16;
- to approve the use of £500,000 P/A of capital/revenue funding secured through Growth Deal 2 / the Devolution Deal to fund the small ‘core’ of the Growth Hub for the period 2016/17 to 2019/20 (i.e. £2m in total over 4 years);
- to approve that the balance the capital/revenue funding secured through the Growth Deal 2 / Devolution Deal (i.e. the remaining £2m) should be made available to the “spokes” of the Growth Hub to ‘pump-prime’ activity in the various ‘spokes’ i.e. access to finance, export, innovation and start-up.
The key elements of this model are:
- Multiple access points – There are literally thousands of professional services firms and advisors operating across the SCR who have daily contact with SMEs. There is no single entry point to external advice (publically-backer or otherwise). Our aim is to address a “latent demand” for external advice and support and therefore we must harness to power and capacity of the professional services network. This will enable us to reach a far broader cross section of the business base.
- Level 2 – The “Core” of the Hub consists of two functions:
- A ‘gateway’ function – a single telephone number for companies seeking advice and support. This gateway function will (initially) be co-located with Business Sheffield. The Gateway function will: (a) deal with simple queries at the first point of contact or (b) undertake a basic diagnostic and if appropriate (c) make a referral to a business advisor with appropriate skills and experience.
- Suitably skilled and experienced business advisors who provide a detailed diagnostic function and “hold the ring” on publically-backed business support (national and local).
- Level 3 – we will seek to consolidate our expertise in five priority areas: Skills (skills bank); Access to Finance; Export; Innovation and start-up. These ‘spokes’ will be available to businesses in any part of the City Region. The default position is that services will be delivered “in the field” i.e. at the site of the client or within a reasonable commuting distance.
In Governance terms, the Growth Hub will be “owned” by the CA, managed by the LEP (i.e. a public / private partnership) with operational responsibility falling to the Business Growth Board. Behind the scenes – LA partners will work together to support the smooth running of the service (regardless of deliver agent).
For further information on the Growth Hub – contact David Hewitt (firstname.lastname@example.org) or 0114 2541210. The Growth Hub will be launched in October 2015.