North East businesses recently secured another £30m of government money to expand and create jobs as part of the highly successful Let’s Grow initiative. The government approved a second tranche of finance from the Regional Growth Fund (RGF), to provide grant support for capital investment and R&D projects creating or safeguarding jobs in the region.
The first fund was launched 18 months ago and so far £25m has been awarded to more than 60 businesses across the North East, creating or safeguarding 3,000 jobs. The latest grant extends the life of the scheme until the end of 2016. It is expected that the programme, which is supported by the two Local Enterprise Partnerships, the region’s 12 local authorities and Northumbria and Teesside universities will also attract a further £150m of private sector funding.
This was cause for great celebration at County Durham based independent business services group BE Group, which is responsible for the administration of Let’s Grow, working with business advisers and chartered accountants UNW who provide the technical support and appraise applications, and The Journal and Evening Gazette.
“It’s great that we’ve got another £30m,’’ says BE Group national services director Suzanne McCreedy. “It’s a grant based support programme but it’s aimed primarily at larger projects where people are looking at growth. We are offering grants from £50,000 and up to £1m and a level of support of between 10% and 25%.’’
Let’s Grow represents a significant success for the North East, but it is only one of the many initiatives and programmes being handled by BE Group. McCreedy provides an impressive list.
BE Group delivers Business Northumberland on behalf of Northumberland County Council and Arch, the Northumberland Development Company. It’s a business support service for people who are thinking about starting a business or want to grow a business in the county.
“Our primary focus is on South East Northumberland to support start-ups in that area, in accordance with Northumberland County Council’s strategic plan’’ explains McCreedy.
“We’ve got one-to-one business advisers on the ground and a workshop programme to supplement that coming up on different topics around starting a business. To support the rest of Northumberland we have a telephone based advice service and a website plus a mentoring service to match them up with mentors on their start-up journey. It’s a comprehensive service. It’s also flexible to provide what the business needs, whether that’s help in sourcing suppliers or just to write a business plan or on setting up social media.’’
At the end of April BE Group is organising a Start your Business Exhibition at Woodhorn Museum near Ashington, featuring seminars from key speakers and successful Northumbrian entrepreneurs. It is expecting to attract 200 people.
Investment for Growth
Investment for Growth, backed by the European Regional Development Fund, offers a direct route to financial assistance, access to an experienced business adviser and investment for projects that create or safeguard jobs.
Also managed by the BE Group, it is available to SMEs actively trading and based in the North East which plan to improve their business through investing in growth projects and it provides grants of up to 40% of the total project value. More than 800 businesses have been assisted through the fund for a range of projects.
“It’s for established businesses only which want to undertake some sort of development project within the business for business improvement. We can provide a grant of up to 40% towards the cost,’’ says McCreedy.
“That has been running for a couple of years and has been very successful.’’
It covers areas such as business planning, website design and development, process improvement, quality management standards, accessing new markets and software development.
Funded by Newcastle City Council and backed by the European Regional Development Fund, Go Digital Newcastle aims to make superfast, super-reliable broadband available to 97% of homes and businesses in Newcastle.
The business support programme is delivered by the BE Group on behalf of Newcastle City Council, and provides businesses in Newcastle with the following free services:
• One-to-one business support from specialist business advisers, including strategic business planning, marketing, website support and advice on the best use of technology for
• Workshops and skilled masterclasses delivered by expert advisers. Topics include website development, social media for business and search engine optimisation.
• Up to 50% funding is available for related equipment and consultancy projects to a maximum of £2,000.
“The main driver of the service is the one-to-one support,’’ explains McCreedy.
Innvisage is a BE Group programme to supply business intelligence experts who provide development, deployment, management and ongoing support of business intelligence solutions using the QlikView business information platform.
Solutions offered, combined with BE Group’s business consulting service, enable organisations to use critical information to aid decision making and improving business processes.
BE Group’s publishing arm is responsible for the BQ magazine series published regionally throughout the UK and now in the Baltic region. It is also responsible for the free morning business news bulletin BQ breakfast and for organizing a number of events.
BQ is hosting a BQ Emerging Entrepreneur Dinner at the Hilton Newcastle Gateshead on Friday 6 June to bring together entrepreneurs from across the North East.
The magazine will be inviting entrepreneurs it has featured, along with others, challenging them to bring along an “up and coming’’ entrepreneur, who could be someone they have mentored, guided or who has simply caught their eye.
The dinner will primarily be a celebration of entrepreneurship but will also provide an opportunity to formally recognise two entrepreneurs from the region who will be judged – based on a short written submission – by a small select panel.
The North East event will be one of a series of four held in each region where BQ magazine is published. Sister events are being held in Scotland, Yorkshire and the West Midlands.
The eight finalists will then be invited to attend the MADE 2014 Festival Gala Dinner on 22 to 26 September in Sheffield – a £450,000 business extravaganza is expected to attract 4,500 business owners and managers from all over the UK.
The week-long series of events will be operated by The BE Group. The eight short-listed entrepreneurs will attend the Gala Dinner as VIP guests, where one will be recognised as the BQ Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year.
BE Group is also part of a consortium including Business Durham, the regional LEPs and universities and the North East Local Enterprise Partnership supporting the North East Satellite Applications Catapult Centre of Excellence.
This is one of three regional centres of excellence across the UK, operating with support from the Satellite Applications Catapult, part of the UK’s network of technology and innovation companies, set up by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), to drive economic growth in key sectors.
It provides SMEs and large companies in the North East with the opportunity to tap into the UK’s multibillion pound space sector through direct access to a programme of industry and technical events, world class academic expertise and business development tools and support.
It engages with all businesses including those operating within key North East industries which can use satellite applications (technology and data) to gain a competitive advantage such as: offshore oil, gas and renewable technologies; transport and logistics; and software and applications development.