Business minister Michael Fallon pledges to speed up regional growth fund help for firms as he hails Norfolk and Suffolk’s growth economy

East Anglia's key role as a driver for growth was hailed by business and enterprise minister Michael Fallon yesterday – as he pledged that the government would speed up its flagship regional growth fund to ensure that businesses got faster access to the cash they need to deliver new jobs.

Speaking at the New Anglia conference in Ipswich, Mr Fallon told delegates that Norfolk and Suffolk was one of the great growth areas of the country with a strong focus on innovation in diverse areas ranging from life sciences at Norwich Research Park to telecommunications at Martlesham Heath in Suffolk.

'This is clearly a growth region and we are delighted with that,' Mr Fallon said. 'This region is very well placed and it should help our economy.'

Last week the government unveiled an extra �3m of regional growth funding to New Anglia to help create 500 new jobs in Norwich, Waveney and Great Yarmouth, and Mr Fallon also said that he wanted to end the delays that had dogged earlier bids and get the money out in a matter of months. 'There's more money coming,' he added.

'I am determined to get it out there as quickly as possible, which means that small businesses in this region will be helped from next year.'

But he said that govermnent did not have all the answers and it was up to businesses and New Anglia to come up with their own local solutions to the growth issue.

The conference, which focused on the theme of innovation and businesses, heard from Doug Field and Kevin Warden from the East of England Co-operative Society; Paul Evans, chief executive and founder of Shareband Broadband technology company; and Jerry Walker from Intelligent Fingerprinting.

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It also saw the launch of the new look EDP and East Anglian Daily Times Top 100, listing all the leading firms in the two counties.

Mark Pendlington, a member of the New Anglia board, said the initiative was a vital part of New Anglia's work to support medium sized firms, which made up the vast majority of businesses in the two counties, and yet which were often overlooked by government.

'The majority of businesses listed in the Top 100 have a turnover of between �25m and �250m, which are classed as 'mid-sized' businesses,' he said. 'While accounting for 0.2pc of all businesses nationally, they generate 20pc of all turnover and employ around 20pc of all staff... companies that have been identified as having the potential to grow, create jobs and wealth locally, now and in the future.'

He said New Anglia was planning a programme of events to help those businesses ranging from help and advice on accessing finance, trading overseas and developing links with business schools.

'It's the Top 100 companies that are vital to driving the success of the regional economy,' he added.

'We're also making the voice of Norfolk and Suffolk heard loud and clear in Westminster, Whitehall and the EU.'

He also warned some in the coalition against pouring scorn on plans to develop a greener economy, which he said could deliver 4,000 new jobs to Norfolk and Suffolk, and was a key plank of New Anglia's growth vision.

'A few siren voices from MPs within government about the value of the green economy must be challenged,' he said. 'And that means providing an evidence-based case for sustainable green growth. Any glib throw-away lines that cast doubt on New Anglia being a great place in which to locate and invest, undermines the very success we are all working so desperately hard to achieve.'

In Wednesday's EDP Business, New Anglia chairman Andy Wood calls on businesses to pull together to deliver growth.

Business editor Shaun Lowthorpe reports on the launch of the Top 100 and the New Anglia Conference at