Eifion Jones, Head of Strategy and Operations
We’ve made a great deal of progress this year in a challenging and rewarding twelve months for Heart of the South West.
We’ve made good progress towards making the area better for business by investing in schemes and initiatives that help to generate growth. We’ve still much work to do towards improving prosperity for all – but we’re on the right track with an investment programme approaching £750m.
2017 was a year of heightened activity as more and more Growth Deal funded projects started on site, and many of the earlier projects have completed and are already delivering results and boosting the local economy.
Details of all of our projects can be found on the website here and the investment article in this newsletter gives a snapshot of the current programme that’s underway.
It’s not just about direct investment though; our role is to identify common priorities and opportunities for business in the area, and we’ve been working with our partners across the South West area to create a business location greater than the sum of its parts.
In the autumn we and our partners in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly and Dorset LEPs published a joint Rural Productivity Report, which outlined many of the opportunities and threats in the rural economy. We’re are told that there will be a new simplified Countryside Stewardship scheme, there’ll be details of that announced early in the New Year, and the deadlines have been extended for the Rural Development Programme for England extending the opportunity for businesses to access these funds.
As we look forward to 2018, we continue to work with government and our partners to increase investment in infrastructure and skills. Productivity is, as ever, a key priority for us in 2018, and we look forward to working with our partners to publish the new Productivity Strategy for the Heart of the South West. This has been in consultation and is due to be launched in the spring.
We’ll continue to help businesses realise their opportunities in the area’s key sectors: digital, nuclear, marine, aerospace, rural productivity and healthcare. The new Productivity Strategy will give us some tangible actions on that and we’ll work with our Growth Hub to translate the strategy into meaningful support for businesses.
Equally important is our role in attracting more and better jobs to the HotSW area by marketing the business location on the global stage through intensive inward investment work. The Great South West partnership and #BackTheSouthWest are gathering momentum to help raise our profile nationally and internationally. With an economy the size of Birmingham’s we’ve a lot to offer for UK plc.
As the year draws to a close and we look forward to the future, it’s important to recognise and say thank you for the contributions made by all of the partners across the area, without which we wouldn’t be able to deliver these projects or attract this level of strategic and financial investment.
We look forward to working with you all in 2018 to continue our work in increasing prosperity for all in the Heart of the South West.
LEP Investment Programme
Sixteen projects are complete, with over 50 still in the pipeline, many of which will start on site in 2018.
The widening of Bridge Road in Exeter has eased traffic congestion, as has Torquay Town Centre Access scheme. The part-LEP funded Science Parks at Plymouth and Exeter continue to thrive as they attract more and more innovative new tenants, and phase two of the Yeovil Innovation Centre provides extra space for growing companies.
The Newcourt Junction on the A379 has dramatically improved the access to Sandy Park and opens up the area for business; the as does the new cycle and footbridge at Portmore, by enabling traffic flow at the surrounding business and housing development areas.
In the Connecting Devon and Somerset broadband project, more than 248,000 miles of fibre cable have been laid, enough to circle the Earth ten times, and expansions to the service are planned, doing more to fill the gaps in broadband in hard to reach areas.
The National College for Nuclear is training local people to take up new higher skills required by the industry, in order to follow the rewarding careers presented by Hinkley Point C and the supply chain. Other colleges are benefitting from the Hinkley Point Training Agency investment to offer higher value skills training for the demand created by the nuclear sector.
The new year sees many projects planned to start on site, as the capital programme gathers momentum to create the conditions for growth. Details of LEP projects are available here.
Heart of the South West Growth Hub
2017 year has zoomed by for the Growth Hub team. It has been a busy year; over 3,200 businesses have engaged with the Growth Hub and awareness of the service continues to grow.
Working closely with a broad partnership of delivery organisations, we have introduced over 700 of those businesses to schemes to meet their needs. You can now read the stories from many who have taken advantage of the funded support available on our website.
Our team’s ability to deliver the Growth Hub service has been further supported this year by taking on two new members of staff. We remain a relatively small core team but, by working with scheme providers, intermediaries and stakeholders, we have achieved a lot. A huge thanks to all of the organisations that have worked with us during the year. We look forward continuing those relationships into 2018!
For those who have not looked at our Growth Hub website recently, please do take a look. The website lists business support schemes and funding, case studies, news, workshops and events. The website has undergone significant developments throughout the year, making it a more engaging and user-friendly platform. We have also been building a directory of B2B Suppliers, with a 100+ suppliers listed to date. We encourage you to engage with our site and to share news posts of interest – www.heartofswgrowthhub.co.uk
We are looking forward to another busy and exciting year ahead. Please sign-up to our newsletter to stay up to date with our latest developments and funded business support opportunities within Devon, Plymouth, Somerset & Torbay. Do look too at the key regional events happening early in 2018 such as the SW Skills Conference and Innovate UK ‘Business As Usual’ events; all of which are listed on our website.
We wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Brexit Resilience and Opportunities Group Calls for More Evidence
The Heart of the South West survey into the effects of Brexit is still open and calling for more evidence from business. It’s part of the Brexit Resilience and Opportunities Group’s work to mitigate and embrace the economic effects of leaving the EU for this area. Businesses across all sectors are invited to participate. Click here to complete the survey.
Deadlines extended for Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) Growth Programme
Funding is available, through the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) Growth Programme, to support projects that increase rural jobs, growth and productivity in the Heart of the South West. Funding is split across three specific strands:
- Rural Business Development Grants – Farm businesses diversifying into non-agricultural activity and new or existing micro and small businesses (including social enterprises) in rural areas can apply for capital grants between £35,000 and £170,000 to support business start-up or expansion.
- Food Processing Grants – New or existing food and drink processing businesses (including farm businesses diversifying into food and drink processing) in rural or urban areas of the Heart of the South West can apply for capital grants from £35,000 to support business start-up or expansion. Project proposals located in urban areas must be able to demonstrate how their activity will create jobs and growth in the rural economy – for example, through direct benefits to a rural supply chain.
- Rural Tourism Infrastructure – Rural businesses, farmers, landowners, charities and public bodies can apply for capital grants from £35,000 for projects that improve the local rural tourism offer by delivering new or enhanced rural tourism assets and infrastructure.
There is a competitive and two-stage application process, comprising an expression of interest and a full application
The deadline for submission of expressions of interest for grants through the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) Growth Programme has now been extended to 31 May 2018.
The final date by which approved RDPE Growth Programme projects must be finished, paid for and complete grant claims submitted has also been extended to 31 December 2020.
Further details of funding opportunities and how to apply are available here.
New Countryside Stewardship Offers to be launched in January
There will be simplifications to the Countryside Stewardship scheme through the creation of four new streamlined offers which will launch in January next year. The announcement is available here.
These new offers will have a much simpler application process, so it will be easier for farmers and land managers to apply and deliver environmental benefits on their land.
Bristol Airport has begun preparing a new Master Plan which will set out potential development to respond to increasing passenger demand forecast over the next three decades and beyond.
A ten week consultation begins is seeking views from the public on its priorities and initial concepts that will guide the airport in its development plans to respond to forecast demand of up to 20 million passengers a year by the mid-2040s. Feedback from individuals and organisations will help shape a draft Master Plan which will be subject to further consultation next spring.
Currently the ninth busiest airport in the UK, and the fifth largest outside London, Bristol Airport saw passenger numbers grow by more than 10 per cent in 2016, and will serve more than eight million passengers this year. Existing planning permission is already in place for facilities to handle up to ten million passengers a year, but this capacity is expected to be reached early in the next decade as demand for air travel to and from the South West of the UK continues to rise.
Local communities, stakeholders, passengers and the public are invited to find out more and provide feedback online. Full details of the consultation, including dates and venues for the drop-in events, can be found by visiting www.bristolairport.co.uk/future Consultation closes at midnight, Friday 26 January 2018.
Regional workshop in Bristol to promote the £10m Flexible Learning Fund
On Tuesday 16 January, the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) will be hosting a free regional workshop at the Marriot Hotel in Bristol to promote the £10 million Flexible Learning Fund to employers, adult education providers and other potential bidders. The Fund welcomes bids submitted on a collaborative basis and the workshops will also provide an opportunity for structured networking to form new partnerships.
The fund has been created to support projects that deliver learning to adults in work or returning to work with low or intermediate level skills, in ways that are flexible and easy to access.
The closing date for submitting proposals is 31 January 2018. Bookings can be made here.