Latest News

Latest News | November 2023

Introduction David Ralph, HotSW LEP CEO

David Ralph

This month saw the much-anticipated Autumn Budget which has set out the Government’s plan for growth, with welcome funding and tax reliefs.

Although we secured some funding for the South West, perhaps it’s too little too late as again we lost out to red wall voters, with an eye on a possible general election next autumn.

I look forward to working with Local Authorities over the coming months to deliver an orderly transition, ensuring our area’s business voice is championed and continues to be meaningful, and services delivered.

This month, the Government confirmed that the region has been successful in securing further Levelling Up Funding which will help provide more employment opportunities.

Our partners at the Great South West welcomed their new director, Ahmed Goga. I’m looking forward to working with him to realise the Partnership’s ambitions.

Keep reading to find out more about SWBC events, latest events from Access to Finance SW, business support opportunities from the Growth Hub, and updates from Lymington Road Coach Station and Connecting Devon and Somerset.

David Ralph
Chief Executive

The region is Levelling Up

Government has confirmed that Torbay, Plymouth and Wellington have been successful in securing further Levelling Up Funding. This funding will accelerate economic growth locally and provide more employment opportunities in the key local sectors.

Torbay Council’s Leader, Cllr David Thomas, said: “We are delighted to hear this news from Government today that has once again identified Torbay to receive more Levelling Up funding. This brings the amount of funding from the various pots secured for the Bay to over £100 million.”

Lymington Road nearing completion

Torbay Council announced that the development of five light industrial units at Lymington Road, Torquay, is on schedule for completion in January 2024. The development will feature a new coach bay, shelter for waiting passengers, improved toilets, and lighting throughout the car park.

Karl Tucker, Chair of the Heart of the South West LEP, said: “It’s fantastic to see these new units nearing completion, ready to support growing businesses in Torbay with modern, flexible facilities. Developments like this are vital to helping small businesses to scale, and revitalising the local economy.”

Full fibre connection at Carymoor

Carymoor Environmental Trust nature reserve on an old landfill site now has a full-fibre connection. This has come as part of Wessex Internet’s ongoing three-year fibre build in some of the most rural parts of South Somerset on behalf of Connecting Devon and Somerset. 

The Connecting Devon and Somerset programme is funded by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Heart of the South West LEP, CDS local authorities, European Regional Development Fund and the Rural Development Programme for England.

Future of Somerset "well on its way"

LEP Chair, Karl Tucker was one of six panellists at the Future of Somerset Breakfast. The event explored the region’s projects and where future economic development opportunities lie.

Somerset is “well on its way” on the journey of transitioning to a Net Zero carbon economy – according to the director of planning and economic development at Gravity – who added that the 616-acre Bridgwater-based smart campus is set to bring a myriad of opportunities to the county, as well as across the wider South West.


Train4Tomorrow returns

Skills Bootcamps are free, flexible courses of up to 16 weeks, giving people the opportunity to build up sector-specific skills and fast-track to an interview with an employer. Skills Bootcamps can be co-funded by employers to enable upskilling of employees.

The programme is funded by the National Skills Fund and includes Skills Bootcamps in Construction, Digital, Green, Health, Hospitality, and Professional Services.

Accelerate growth with Access to Finance

Access to Finance SW‘s next event ‘Accelerate Growth: Investor Secrets for CEOs and Owner-Managers’ will be hosted via webinar on Wednesday 13th December from 10 am – 11 am. Key topics will include: How external investment can unlock growth and much more.

The event will provide CEOs and owner-managers with the opportunity to dive deep into the world of strategic marketing, venture capital and private equity. 

Unlock your digital potential

The Heart of the South West Growth Hub Digital Link is a free, fully-funded service that connects you to the latest advice, guidance, tools and resources. Unlock your business’s digital potential and help grow your business by exploiting digital technologies.

If you’re a business in Devon, Somerset, Plymouth and Torbay, you can get dedicated time with their Digital Business Advisers. You’ll receive a Digital Business Review and you’ll work together to find digital solutions aligned with your business goals. 

New director to lead Great South West

Ahmed Goga has joined the Great South West Partnership as a director, advising on the Board’s future growth plans. In his new role, Ahmed will act as a principal adviser to the Board, leading on a strategic, collaborative approach to the Partnership’s future growth.

Ahmed said:  “This is a really exciting time to be part of the Great South West. The Partnership has united the region, creating a powerful shared voice and an ambitious vision that places it at the heart of the UK’s economic priorities, which I look forward to supporting.”

SWBC: Harnessing the Power of AI

The South West Business Council  has announced their latest conference ‘Harnessing the Power of AI – Meeting the challenges and opportunities’. The conference will take place at the University of Exeter on the 16th of February next year from 9am-1pm.

The confenrece will explore the strategic importance of AI for society, how do we make the best use of technologies such as AI and Machine Learning – especially in terms of how they might improve productivity, what is the role of government in terms of policy-setting frameworks to ensure that AI is a force for good both from a societal and business perspective and much more.

Prosperity or survival at best?

In his latest blog, CEO David Ralph reflects on the Autumn Budget: “Much of the funding for marine, photonics, engineering, offshore wind and climate science was playing catch-up, and could have been awarded some time ago.”

“More specifically for LEPs, I’m pleased to see that Growth Hub funding has been confirmed for 2024/25, to continue providing our SMEs with access to finance and support programmes. Growth Hubs have been an important source of support for local businesses, and it’s good to see that our push for funding has been recognised.” 


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.