Growth Hubs across the South West are reporting multiple increases in phone calls and in web traffic as businesses seek support through the coronavirus pandemic.
Growth Hubs, which are managed by the Local Enterprise Partnerships, provide free and impartial help to new and established businesses, signposting them to business support and advice.
To help with growing demand the Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly Growth Hub has just appointed an agriculture expert – Chris Godolphin – who will also work with businesses in sectors such as food, fishing and mining.
Chris has worked with agri-businesses for more than a decade, including five years with the Rural Business School at Duchy College, and with Cornwall Development Company’s Agri-tech Project, supporting innovation in agriculture. Most recently Chris was part of the policy team at Cornwall Council’s Economic Growth Service.
The Growth Hub is also home to the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Skills Hub which is working with Cornwall Chamber of Commerce and other business groups to look at post-recovery skills for business, where the landscape may be very different to now.
The Heart of the South West Growth Hub – covering Devon, Plymouth, Somerset and Torbay – has additional capacity and a new Business Recovery Support Service that offers an opportunity to speak to an adviser on adaption, resilience and recovery considering COVID-19 impacts.
As well as the Growth Hub to help businesses, the Heart of the South West LEP has created a Virtual Jobs Fair to help those seeking work take up vacancies from local businesses who are recruiting; and is offering a range of resources for on-line training through its Digital Skills Partnership.
Dorset’s growth hub, Dorset Gateway, has invested in further resources to help signpost businesses to local and national support, seconded existing staff to new and temporary roles, helped businesses apply for government grant funding, and launched a COVID-19 Business Impact Survey for Dorset.
Through the Dorset Gateway’s fully-funded Bid Writing Support Service, Dorset LEP has been working with local SME’s to help them apply for funding for ideas that address COVID-19. Specifically, UKRI – the government’s research and innovation agency – has put out a call looking for short-term projects addressing and mitigating the health, social, economic, cultural and environmental impacts of the COVID-19 outbreak. Since the call was announced at the beginning of April, Dorset Gateway has supported four local businesses in submitting project proposals totalling over £186,000.
Since the start of the coronavirus lockdown the Growth Hubs have co-ordinated information about the local and national coronavirus support packages available, with a dedicated team helping businesses navigate what’s on offer.
In the March Budget, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a further £10m to increase the capacity of all 38 Growth Hubs in England. The money will help fund additional staff on the ground and extend the scope of the Growth Hubs’ services.
Mark Duddridge, Chair of the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP, which co-funds the Growth Hub, said: “Now more than ever businesses need as much support as they can get. The Growth Hub is the go-to place for expert help on what’s available to get businesses through the pandemic and out the other side. Through the LEP we have been able to make extra resources available to cope with a fivefold increase in enquiries, and the extra funding from Government means we can ramp up further to help with economic recovery.”
Karl Tucker, Chair of the Heart of the South West LEP said: “Our Growth Hub has seen enquiries increase three-fold since the COVID crisis, so we’re investing more resources to help keep businesses going at this unprecedented time. Growth Hubs not only add real value to interpreting the complex range of business support aid announced by the Government, but also give specialist advice on adaptation, resilience and digital skills.”
Jim Stewart, Chair of Dorset LEP said: “Calls to Dorset Gateway about COVID-19 were being logged as early as the start of March when businesses first felt the impact of the outbreak. By mid-March, Dorset LEP had invested in a range of resources and initiatives to support businesses. As we look to the future, we are exploring additional funding sources, considering a wider package of business resilience support for local businesses, including EU exit transition arrangements.”
Businesses in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly that need help to understand what support is available to deal with the impacts of COVID-19 should contact the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Growth Hub, telephone 01209-708660.
The Heart of the South West Growth Hub can be contacted by calling 03456 047 047.
Dorset-based businesses should contact Dorset Gateway by calling 01202 714800.