Innovative firms across the east can benefit from £4m cash pot

Kevin Horne, chief executive of NWES

Kevin Horne, chief executive of NWES - Credit: Archant

Norwich-based business advisors NWES is on course to help more than 400 firms with cash grants after securing a £4m slice of European funding.

The cash pot will be used to provide support to innovative companies across Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Essex, and will add four new business advisors to NWES' service.

And it will also boost the number of firms the organisation can help from 600 a year to 800 a year.

Kevin Horne, chief executive of NWES, said the grant fund will be used to target innovative new companies, which are looking to establish new products or break into new sectors.

It comes after a movement had been made across Norfolk to establish the region as an innovation hub thanks to support for growing business at the Hethel Engineering Centre and the Norwich Research Park.

But Mr Horne said the biggest upsurge in cutting-edge companies was across Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft where a wave of new start up firms are being established.

He said: 'It is great news because we have secured a new contract with a total value of more than £4m to help start ups and growing businesses in relation to innovation.

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'There will be grants that are available for 20pc of a companies expenditure for businesses across Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Cambridgeshire. But there is no allocation it is simply first come, first served.

'We will provide grants where the demand is, but potentially 400 companies could benefit from the scheme.

'Meanwhile, we are also looking to take on five new business advisors to add to our teams across the region.

'But the grants will tie into what we are already doing. We can already provide support to generic start ups, but this will give innovative companies a more bespoke support.

He added: 'We are seeing a lot of innovation coming from the east coast offshore industry in Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft. 'Coming from the growth we have seen, a lot of it seems to concentrated in the brave new world of the energy sector where a lot of work is being done from tidal power to wind power. But these grants are open to everybody.'

NWES, which sponsors the EDP Future 50, secured the £4m after pitching for the cash from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

It is likely that the new business advisors created from the fund will be spread across the region, with NWES' Norfolk base set to get one new advisor.

The decision to allocate the money to NWES follows £7.8m grant awarded to the Hethel Engineering Centre from the ERDF to create a new 40,000 square foot low carbon manufacturing facility.

The start of the development was launched during a breaking of the ground ceremony last month.