New Anglia’s �3m grant fund bid to help firms create jobs

A �3m grant fund bid to help give businesses in Norfolk and Suffolk the finance and confidence to create jobs was submitted to the government yesterday.

The New Anglia local enterprise partnership (LEP) will apply for money from the government's regional growth fund (RGF) to set up a scheme to help business investment in more deprived parts of the region.

If successful, businesses in Norwich, Great Yarmouth, Waveney and Ipswich will be able to apply for grants of between �25,000 and �100,000.

The grant is targeted at advanced manufacturing, energy, life sciences, creative digital and ICT sectors.

In return, the businesses receiving the grants will invest an extra �4 for every pound awarded through the growth fund.

New Anglia programme director Chris Starkie said: 'It is pretty clear from local evidence that there is this gap in lending. There are sources of lending from banks to business angels, organisations like Finance East and other providers, but none are able to bridge that first 20pc. Our grants will fill that gap. The idea is this will give businesses more confidence to expand and more confidence to ask for finance from the banks and it gives the banks more confidence to lend.'

But there will be stiff competition from other regions for a slice of the government's �2.4bn pot set up last year to help businesses create more private sector jobs, particularly in areas of high unemployment and high public sector job dependency.

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Mr Starkie said: 'We have targeted our fund around locations within the New Anglia area that fit most closely with the RGF criteria laid out by the government to maximise our chances of being successful.'

Research by the University of East Anglia Business School and the Federation of Small Businesses into finance revealed a gap between what banks are prepared to lend and what businesses would like in order to grow.

Businesses are also struggling with the terms of lending and the interest rates available.

Mr Starkie said: 'Our grant scheme will reduce the risk to banks for lending. Instead of lending 100pc, they will only have to lend 80pc.

'As well as providing the grant, under the plans the Lep would also help set up the businesses with mentoring support and direct them to other existing finance projects and schemes. It is about credible business plans and plans that will create jobs.

'The idea is the role of the Lep is to act as a co-ordinator and catalyst,' added Mr Starkie.

Among the partners, it will be working with are Ipswich-based Finance East, the East of England Co-Operative Investment Fund as well as the banks and other business support organisations.

Newspaper group Archant, publisher of the Eastern Daily Press, will also provide advertising to help promote the scheme.

The scheme has been developed by New Anglia Lep with Suffolk County Council and is being supported by local authorities in the areas covered by the fund. It has also been supported by the Eastern Enterprise Hub and Lovewell Blake.

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