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Latest News | January 2024

Introduction David Ralph, HotSW LEP CEO

David Ralph

As we enter the new year, we’re focused on maintaining the delivery of key projects, and mapping out our transition to ensure functions are transferred to Local Authorities in a smooth and timely fashion.

This month, we were delighted to announce £144,500 funding for the iAero centre to support iFACTORe, a dedicated digital data demonstration space.

It’s fantastic to see Somerset Careers Hub’s Start Small; Dream Big project progressing. Programmes like this are so important to bridge the gap between classroom learning and real-world application.

Coming up, I’m looking forward to a busy calendar of events, including the agri-tech showcase, where our Chair Karl Tucker will be discussing how agri-tech could be key to navigating the net zero transition.

Our partners at the Great South West have announced their first conference, ‘Delivering for the UK’. This promises to be a really exciting event, bringing together national business leaders and politicians to raise the profile of our region’s opportunities to deliver economic growth, security and prosperity.

Keep reading to find out more about events and support from the Heart of the South West Growth Hub, latest events from Access to Finance SW, business programmes like the Tech South West Growth Forge, and more.

David Ralph
Chief Executive

Report reveals thousands of jobs and millions of pounds boost to South West economy

Our latest impact report reveals that since 2011, over 7,000 jobs have been created by LEP funding, generating more than £2.3 billion in Gross Value Added (GVA). The report evaluates the outcomes of the Growing Places Fund, Local Growth Fund, and Getting Building Fund.

The funding is forecast to have created over 20,700 jobs by March 2025, and £6.8 billion of GVA, through projects which have supported areas of competitive advantage, infrastructure, innovation, business support, people and skills.

£140k for ‘Factory of the Future’

iAero Centre in Yeovil received £144,500 to support Factory of the Future. The funding will help install an Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) Factory+ Demonstrator and equipment, to create a dedicated digital data demonstration space.

iFACTORe will allow companies in the industry to collect and analyse vast amounts of data, with the potential to enhance efficiency and productivity whilst also fostering innovation and competitiveness.

Key event to focus on role of agri-tech

This year’s AgriTech Showcase will be held at Westpoint Arena in Exeter on 21 March. The event will focus on the commercialisation and adoption of new, innovative and impactful agri-tech. Agri-tech is a major component in the development of a secure and sustainable food supply chain.

Karl Tucker, chair of Heart of the South West LEP and the Great South West said: “With a growing population, changing climate patterns, and the need for more sustainable practices, food security is one of the biggest challenges facing the UK.”

Start Small; Dream Big

The Primary School Careers Project’s first employer visits have taken place. Start Small; Dream Big aims to inspire and guide young students toward a future of endless possibilities. The initiative is run alongside the Careers and Enterprise Company.

The ‘Start Small; Dream Big’ 12 months pilot programme started in September aimed at improving career related learning in primary schools in preparation for new statutory guidance. 

Net Zero and Sustainability workshop

The Heart of the South West Growth Hub has partnered with Prosper to host a Net Zero and sustainability workshop. The event will take place on 7th February at Exeter Science Park.

Whether you’re new to net zero or keen to be green but would like to know more, this free event will give you the insight you need to make your business thrive, save money and reduce your carbon footprint, as well as connecting you to the right support to get you one step further.

Accelerate growth with Access to Finance

Unlock a world of financial insights and connections through Access to Finance SW‘s dedicated discussion area. The exclusive members-only zone has daily updates on the business finance landscape. From practical tips to breaking news, it’s your go-to source for staying ahead.

Access to Finance is a free community for growing businesses in the Heart of the South West.

Region's opportunities to be put on national stage at major event

The Great South West’s ‘Delivering for the UK‘ conference will take place on Friday 13th September. The event will bring together leading national and regional figures, and business leaders, showcasing the region’s role in driving economic growth across the country.

As global conflicts, food and energy production challenges, availability of vital raw materials and fluctuating markets impact economies, supply chains and societies around the world, our region’s key sectors in energy, defence and food are proving vital to the country’s future prosperity.

Angel Investor programme

Tech South West’s Angel Investor Programme is establishing a community of investors to support the tech sector by catalysing growth, fostering diversity, and addressing funding challenges. The programme will educate and support 40 new angel investors for the region.

The programme also offers to generate an anticipated £2.8 million of angel investment annually, resulting in a total funding boost of £9 million. Get involved with the Angel Investor Programme by emailing:

Forge the future of your business

Growth Forge is a dynamic programme that allows companies to focus on their identified priority areas and opportunities for growth. The programme has been developed by Tech South West, and builds on the successes of its ScaleUp and StartUp Studios.

Collaborate with top-tier growth coaches and experts to identify and work on priority areas to maximise growth opportunities. Partners include Microsoft, Sandler, Bishop Fleming, Ashfords, Howden, and Program, along with a team of specialist Growth Coaches and Mentors, to support strategy development and implementation.

Ensuring a legacy of positive impact for the Heart of the South West

In his latest blog, CEO David Ralph reflects on what’s next for the LEP: “As we evaluate the proposed transition plans from Councils, our path remains clear: transfer the functions of the LEP to the upper-tier Local Authorities in a way that is of greatest benefit to our communities.”

“The Local Authorities plan to oversee the functions through three ‘Economic Growth Boards’. As part of this transition, legacy funding and responsibilities from the LEP will shift to these Boards. They are set to revise their economic strategies in the coming months. This period will be crucial for our Board Directors as they contemplate any future role of our company.”


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.