£15m of investment from government cash

PUBLISHED: 06:30 19 October 2012

Business and enterprise minister Michael Fallon spoke to the EDP.  David Jones/PA Wire

Business and enterprise minister Michael Fallon spoke to the EDP. David Jones/PA Wire

The government will today breathe life into a plan to deliver £15m of investment to small businesses in Norfolk and Suffolk.

Ministers will announce that the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), a body set up to drive economic growth, has been successful in its bid for £3m of state funding.

The LEP will use the money, from round three of the Regional Growth Fund, to give grants of between £20,000 and £100,000 to small and medium sized businesses in Norwich, Ipswich, Great Yarmouth and Waveney.

The idea is that firms will then use their grant as pump-prime funding, levering in four times more investment from other sources such as banks or venture capitalists and bringing the total amount of investment to £15m.

Speaking to the EDP business minister Michael Fallon said: “The bid was selected first of all because it will see money going to small businesses.

“Many of the regional growth fund grants go to large companies that have particular projects and it’s been difficult for small and medium sized enterprises to access the money.

“A great advantage of [New Anglia’s] scheme is that it will get money to small businesses in Norwich, Ipswich, Waveney and Great Yarmouth that the LEP has identified.”

The Regional Growth Fund, which started in 2011, was criticised by a committee of MPs recently which found that of the £1.4bn allocated in rounds one and two, only £60m had reached front-line projects. A further £470m was stuck in intermediary bodies,

Mr Fallon, given a job at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills in the recent reshuffle, said this time things would be different.

Successful bidders like New Anglia will have just three months to sign off the deal with government, a further three months to complete due diligence and will be expected to begin using the money by the end of the financial year.

He added: “The very latest point that money starts to flow should be April, but they could get it done sooner than that.

“I have been five weeks in the job and I saw what the Regional Growth Fund was doing and what each of the LEPs was doing in each of their areas, and I want to accelerate the process and all of their activity.

“We need to get in there and make sure this money is available and fully accessible for businesses.”

New Anglia decided to set up its scheme after firms in the East said they were finding it hard to get money to undertake development projects.

Loans were available, but only if firms could provide the fist 20pc of capital for any project themselves. The LEPs plan is to use the £3m from the growth fund to give firms a grant to bridge that first 20pc.

Money will be targeted at the advanced manufacturing, energy, life sciences, creative digital and ICT sectors. Depending on the size of grants given the scheme could help between 30 and 120 firms, helping to create 500 jobs.

Meanwhile media group Archant will provide £500,000 worth of advertising and marketing to promote the scheme.

New Anglia chair Andy Wood said: “We are delighted that the New Anglia LEP has been successful in securing this funding from the Government in what was a very tough national competition.

“We are starting to show that we can deliver as an LEP and secure funding for our area. We are confident our fund will make a real difference and help businesses in Norwich, Ipswich and Great Yarmouth grow and create more jobs.”

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