A new £3.6m fund has been launched to help drive growth and support innovation among rural businesses across the North of Hampshire as well as South and West Surrey.
Businesses in rural areas across most of Hampshire and parts of Surrey are being invited to submit expressions of interest for the £3.6m European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).
Three priority areas for the funding programme include, food processing, rural business development, and rural tourism infrastructure.
A total of £881,000 will be available in small grants of between £50,000 and £170,000, for businesses in the food processing sector to drive growth and support innovation.
Similarly, the sum of £881,000 in grants also ranging from £50,000 to £170,000, will be available as capital investments to develop rural tourism infrastructure.
The largest share of £1.8m however has been allocated to rural business development to help new and expanding businesses in rural areas grow.
Zoe Gray, chair of the Enterprise ESIF Committee, said: “I am delighted by the launch of this new EAFRD call in support of the rural business sector within Enterprise M3 LEP area. This will build on the benefits already being derived by several businesses that successfully applied for earlier calls of the ESIF programme.”
She added: “Rural locations within Enterprise M3 area, contribute about 15% of our economic output, so it is really important that rural businesses get the support they need to grow and maximise productivity.
"These small grants can be used to build new tourism visitor facilities, or for capacity expansion. For example, the first round of EAFRD calls helped a winery to develop a new wine cellar, and an artisan farm was able to improve organic processes in goat cheese fabrication.”
Enterprise M3 and the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) are hosting a free workshop for rural businesses interested in applying for the EU fund, on 20 March 2017, at Rushmoor Borough Council Offices in Farnborough.