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Council wins £3.1m to help boost local business growth

Published on 13 February 2017

A NEW scheme that will support the growth of smaller firms in Leicester and Leicestershire has been awarded over £3milllion of European Union cash.

Leicester City Council has led a successful bid to the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) for £3.1milllion to kick-start the Collaborate project, which will be run in partnership with Leicestershire County Council, East Midlands Chamber of Commerce and the Food & Drink Forum.

The scheme – which is due to launch towards the end of February – will offer a comprehensive business support, capital grants and inward investment service for small to medium sized companies in the area.

It aims to support the growth of around 290 local firms, create some 350 new jobs and attract £2.4milllion of private sector investment into the area.

Businesses will be able to apply for grants of £10,000 to £25,000 to meet up to one-third of the cost of planned investment. To be eligible, firms must be employing fewer than 250 staff and trading business-to-business.

The business support programme will target firms operating within one of the sectors identified as a priority for growth by Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP).  These include: advanced manufacturing, the creative industries, engineering, financial services, food and drink manufacturing, logistics and distribution, low carbon energy or tourism.

The scheme will also aim to attract new inward investment from companies from the USA, China and India that are looking to expand or relocate into Leicester and Leicestershire.

In Leicester, Collaborate is part of the next phase of the city council’s economic action plan which has helped create 5,160 new jobs and 800 new apprenticeships since 2012. Over 1,900 local businesses have also been supported, with grants ranging from £1,000 to £1million.

City Mayor Peter Soulsby said: “This award of £3.1milllion of EU money to support the Collaborate project is fantastic news.

“It will provide a real boost to our economic action plan, which is already having a positive impact on the local jobs market and wider investor confidence in the city.”

County council leader Nick Rushton said: “This project provides a unique opportunity to provide support for businesses within some of Leicestershire’s key sectors, including food and drink, creative industries and tourism.”

Fay Davies, general manager of the Food & Drink Forum, said: "We look forward to starting work on the Collaborate project which will allow us to offer vital support to food and drink manufacturers throughout Leicester and Leicestershire. The food and drink sector is thriving in the area and we hope that the work we undertake through Collaborate will help businesses continue to grow."

Scott Knowles, Chief Executive at Midlands Chamber (Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Leicestershire), said: “When it comes to creating jobs and wealth, the East Midlands is one of the strongest regions in the country.

“There is little doubt, however, that inflationary pressures will be felt this year as a result of the Brexit process and they could threaten the buoyancy of the regional economy, resulting in pressure on employers to identify efficiency savings.

“The Collaborate programme will help local companies to deliver hundreds of new jobs and apprenticeships and attract inward investment, all of which will help to ensure that the East Midlands remains a driver of the national economy.”

Leicester City Council will act as the accountable body for the Collaborate fund. A formal decision on this is due to be taken on Tuesday 21 February.

More information about the Collaborate project, and how businesses can apply for support, will be available on the LLEP Business Gateway website at www.llepbizgateway.co.uk/collaborate