Solent: LEP unveils multi-million-pound support for post-Brexit business growth

The Solent Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has announced a broad range of funding to help all sizes of businesses and organisations, with the aim of supporting job creation, safeguarding existing jobs, increasing profitability and helping the economy to grow in the region.

It is calling on those looking to start-up new businesses, those looking for money to get a particular project up-and-running, or those who need funding to support large-scale projects or programmes to come and talk to the LEP about the funding available.

Minister of state for trade policy Conor Burns visited the Solent region to launch the new funding offers. He said: “I am delighted to be able to launch this new support, which includes financial backing for the area’s world-class small and medium-sized business base to develop the new international markets and trading relationships that will boost UK productivity. I am committed to working with Solent LEP and businesses in the region to make sure Britain is ready to embrace the opportunities and overcome the challenges that leaving the EU on October 31 presents. Having attended Southampton University and lived for many years in the region, I know personally the dynamism of the Solent area.”

The LEP wants to receive applications that will support emerging strengths highlighted through consultation work with Solent residents and organisations in order to develop a Local Industrial Strategy for the region that will take it successfully into 2050. This includes:

  • Marine and Maritime
  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Defence
  • Life Science and Healthcare
  • Digital and Creative Industries
  • Oil and Gas
  • Information Economy
  • Visitor Economy
  • Construction
  • Clean/Green Technology

In addition, the new funding will support proposals to improve access and understanding of technical data, as well as those that enhance employer-led skills training in the region.

The new funds can provide up to £5 million towards major projects (although higher levels of investment will be exceptionally considered) and investments in smaller-scale projects start from £5,000.

Funding for large-scale projects will seek to build on the success of the LEP’s significant Local Growth Fund investment in the area to date, which includes schemes such as the Isle of Wight College’s Centre of Excellence for Composites, Advanced Manufacturing and Marine, the UK’s first Centre for Cancer Immunology in Southampton, and a new link road to unlock investment at the Dunsbury Park site in Havant – now home to a new UK distribution centre for Fat Face.

Gary Jeffries, Solent LEP chairman, said: “Our internationally recognised region has always been at the vanguard of UK innovation, trade and investment and we want to invest now to ensure our coastal powerhouse leads the charge in the Government’s plans to unleash the productivity power of the nation. This funding for large-scale projects in the Solent region is key to bringing forward the transformational investments that will help create jobs and improve the economy for the benefit of everyone living, studying or working here.”

Large-scale funding is also open to organisations looking for programme funding, a co-investment approach with a broad remit, including rolling out the infrastructure to support digital connectivity and support for rural initiatives. An example of an existing programme is the Isle of Wight Rural SME Fund, where Natural Enterprise is managing a competitive funding programme to support rural businesses on the Isle of Wight.

Commenting on the successful programme, Graham Biss, managing director at Natural Enterprise, said: “Natural Enterprise is delighted to be working with the LEP to target financial support to those Island businesses and projects where it will give the biggest boost to the Island’s rural economy. We have been able to support more than 40 SMEs to date and the funding we are able to provide through the programme has stimulated more than £1m of additional investment into local projects, enabling the rural businesses we are working with to create and safeguard more than 120 jobs.”

The suite of smaller funding packages for SMEs can provide investment ranging from £5,000 – £500k and are targeted at those looking to start a brand-new business, those looking for money for a specific project to support their growth, such as expanding the business premises or bringing in new equipment, and supporting businesses seeking to respond to challenging trading conditions.

Brian Johnson, Solent LEP deputy chair and SME business ambassador, said: “There has always been a strong entrepreneurial spirit in this region and we have seen this first-hand through our own SME funding programmes that have enabled the LEP to invest over £10.5m in close to 300 businesses and new start-ups so far. We want to back our Solent businesses to explore new markets, develop new products or explore new global trading relationships as we prepare for a post-Brexit world.

“We are further backing our businesses today with these new funding opportunities that will offer assistance at all stages of business growth; from funding for new start-ups through to support for major investments to drive productivity, as well as ensuring support is at hand to help safeguard businesses and jobs when needed.”

In addition to the funds launched, the LEP will also shortly be announcing a new micro-grant programme to provide smaller funding awards, up to £5,000, to support businesses with a range of small projects that will unlock growth, including backing for independent retailers and money to enhance the digital capability of Solent businesses.