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A year of transformative delivery in the Heart of the South West

The Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) looks back on a year of impactful funding commitments and initiatives.

Since January, the LEP has continued to work with stakeholders to provide funding and support for local businesses, skills, and job creation.

To date, LEP-funded activities have created over 7,800 new jobs, helped over 18,000 businesses to grow, and connected over 9,500 homes and businesses to superfast broadband.

Major business support projects include the launch of the British Business Bank’s £200 million South West Investment Fund and the new Angel Investor Programme, set to drive economic growth by identifying, educating, and supporting new investors.

Paul Coles, CEO of South West Business Council and Board member of the Heart of the South West LEP, said: “The Heart of the South West LEP has been instrumental in supporting local businesses over the past year. Access to finance and free support is particularly important for our SMEs, who continue to face economic uncertainty and challenges around supply chains, talent, net zero and digitalisation.”

The Digital Leadership for SMEs training programme, led by Devon County Council with support from the LEP, launched in June to help small businesses enhance their digital capabilities.

The LEP will also be committing a further £1.3 million into developing the digital economy, working closely with Connecting Devon & Somerset to support the rollout of superfast broadband to hard-to-reach communities.

Significant science and innovation projects were secured this year. The University of Plymouth Cyber Resilience of Offshore Wind Networks (CROWN) project, supported by a £650,000 grant from the LEP, will incorporate a purpose-built lab space to identify potential vulnerabilities in wind turbines.

Professor Judith Petts, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Plymouth and Board member of the Heart of the South West LEP, said: “The LEP’s support has been crucial in advancing innovation in the region where national leading facilities exist. Projects like CROWN showcase the LEP’s commitment to innovation, which aligns with our vision to address real-world challenges through cutting-edge solutions.”

Plymouth Science Park secured £507,000 for a state-of-the-art additive manufacturing facility, expanding the Park’s offer to additive manufacturing and engineering companies.

Significant strides in infrastructure included the development of business units at Barrack Court (Plymouth) and Lymington Road (Torquay), supporting local businesses in accessing modern facilities, and the opening of a new Wickes store at Edginswell Business Park (Torquay), generating employment opportunities and boosting the local economy.

The opening of Marsh Barton Railway, underpinned by a £4.4 million investment from the Growth Deal fund, will enhance local connectivity, supporting inclusive growth around Exeter.  More than 550,000 journeys have been made in the first two years of the Dartmoor Line reopening, with the LEP playing a key role in the successful business case to reopen the line between Okehampton and Exeter,.

Looking ahead, the LEP is working to deliver a smooth and orderly transition of LEP functions to Local Authorities at the end of March, with key developments expected to be announced at the end of January.

Funding has been secured to continue the Heart of the South West Growth Hub service for until March 2025, with local funding agreed to avoid a ‘cliff edge’ in support should Government funding be delayed. 

Proposals and a business case for a new Social Impact Fund launched by the LEP will be presented to the Board in January. The fund will help address local challenges in housing, deprivation and low wages, through investments that deliver both social and economic benefits.

Similarly, we hope to set out a partnership to deliver the UKs first aviation test centre and await further announcements on our Enterprise Zones at Gravity, Exeter and Oceansgate in Plymouth which includes the Freeport.

Karl Tucker, Chair of the Heart of the South West LEP, said: “We are proud to play a pivotal role in driving economic growth, fostering innovation, and creating positive social impact. Our focus now is on a smooth transition of the core LEP functions to the Local Authorities in April, whilst ensuring that our businesses continue to be championed, and have their voices heard in the future of economic delivery.”

The Heart of the South West LEP will enter 2024 with a drive to ensure its commitment to fostering innovation, clean and inclusive growth, and economic resilience continues.


Comprised of business leaders from across our key sectors, the LEP Board oversees the programme of infrastructure, business support and skills projects being delivered by 2025.

Find out more about our board >

LEP board meetings & documents >

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      David Ralph

      Chief Executive

      David Ralph started as Chief Executive of Heart of South West LEP at the beginning of June 2018. Previously, he had spent 5 years as CEO of the Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire (D2N2) LEP from 2013 where he oversaw the development of the D2N2 Strategic Economic Plan and sector strategies, 3 Growth Deals with HM Government to deliver a £1billion capital investment programme, securing and implementing £200m ESIF programme, the Derby and Nottingham Enterprise Zone, the D2N2 Skills Deal and Time for Innovation programme, community fund and led the executive team to develop the HS2 East Midlands hub. He was also closely involved in the proposed North Midlands Devolution Deal and one of the key architects in establishing the Midlands Engine, chairing the officer steering group. Whilst in this role David was a NED of the Nottingham Enterprise Zone, and Marketing NG, the Outer Estates Foundation and a Governor of Nottingham College and on the advisory Board of Nottingham Business School.

      Before the East Midlands, David was CEO of the Have Gateway Partnership working closely with local stakeholders including the ports of Felixstowe, Harwich and Ipswich and BT Adadastral Park across Suffolk and Essex and prior to that was Chief Exec of the Barton Hill New Deal for Communities programme in Bristol and the Nelm Development Trust in Norwich.

      David is a keen sailor, walker and trail runner.