£1 million grant fund to transform rural micro-businesses in Devon and Somerset

Entrepreneurs from Devon and Somerset are being given new opportunities to boost profits and create jobs with game-changing grants of over £10,000 each, the Heart of the South West (HotSW) Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) announced today.

The £1 million grant fund is in addition to the Government’s £2.9 million investment in HotSW’s Rural Growth Network (RGN).  Last year, Defra selected just five regions to receive funding for an RGN Pilot to help overcome the challenges of running a rural business, such as shortage of work premises and poor internet speeds.

The Heart of the South West’s RGN is expected to create around 1,300 new jobs in the area and increase gross value added (GVA) by tens of millions.

Rural enterprises with ten employees or less are eligible to apply to HotSW’s RGN for the business grants. There is no upper limit for grant funding, though applicants will need to meet 60% of project costs, with the grant covering a maximum of 40%.

The £1 million grant scheme is part of Defra’s Rural Development Programme for England that has already transformed the prospects of thousands of rural businesses across the country.

Tim Jones, Chair of HotSW said: “Micro-enterprises are a vital component of the Devon and Somerset rural economy, representing approximately 90% of the businesses across the two counties.

“This grant will develop, expand and stimulate economic growth, innovation and employment opportunities and help ensure that our rural communities remain active and vibrant places in which to live and work.”

LEP Board Member and Devon County Councillor Will Mumford said: “This is a great piece of news for rural Devon and Somerset and I’m really pleased that Defra has recognised the case for supporting rural areas.

“Devon County Council and the LEP have worked hard on developing this bid with our partners: this scheme is the first such bid to be approved by Defra in an RGN pilot area.

“As the timescales associated with this project are tight, we are encouraging micro businesses to make an early ‘expression of interest’ application through the HotSW LEP website.”

Rural Affairs Minister, Richard Benyon said: “This extra funding will give aspiring entrepreneurs the chance to turn their most ambitious business plans into reality.

“We are in a global race and the South West can play a big part in getting the country’s finances back on track. I’ve seen for myself that the region has some of the most exciting and innovative businesses in the country. I want to help even more businesses make the most of every opening. These grants will help make that happen; creating more jobs and keeping our economy growing.”