Cross-Channel scheme aims to boost enterprise in coastal regions

UEA - University of East Anglia.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

UEA - University of East Anglia.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

East Anglia will help lead a multi-million pound project to boost enterprise training and job opportunities for thousands of social housing residents on both sides of the Channel.

Increase Valorisation Sociale (Increase VS) will see the University of East Anglia (UEA) work with housing associations in France and across the UK to put 4,000 people through entrepreneurship training, support 3,200 of those into employment and help create 1,200 new businesses.

The £8.6m three-year project, which will focus on the South and Norfolk coast in the UK and North coast in France, will be working with residents of 38 neighbourhoods facing barriers such as single parenting, disability, multi-generational benefit dependency, high rates of poverty and low job opportunities.

Dr Zografia Bika, a senior lecturer in entrepreneurship at UEA's Norwich Business School, will lead an academic evaluation of the programme, enabling best practice to be shared for future sustainable entrepreneurship projects. The team's work will draw on social housing data, findings from questionnaires, interviews and case studies.

Dr Bika said: 'Our aim is to track the participants' journey in trying out micro-enterprises, securing employment and engaging in personal development. By working with residents we are hoping to generate new insights into the local socio-economic and cultural dynamics that underpin the lives of those furthest away from the labour market.

'This will help future work on entrepreneurship and social innovation among marginalised communities and hopefully influence public and policy debate.'

Of the £8.6m budget, £5.9m has come from the European Union's Interreg France (Channel) England programme, through the European Regional Development Fund.

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The Increase VS programme will create several community ambassador roles and a stakeholder network in each participating neighbourhood to ensure on-going support to micro-entrepreneurs and continue to engage future participants.

Residents will learn skills to help launch their own businesses, including how to trial and market test business ideas and how to manage their finances through micro-loans.

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