Ely Standard Column: Local Support and Funding for Business

I recently visited the nearly completed construction site of the Dojima Sake Brewery within the historic grounds of Fordham Abbey and a few weeks ago I officially opened the new Deanta UK headquarters which they have chosen to locate in Lancaster Way Business Park.

Business and employment growth in East Cambridgeshire has increased by 15% since 2009 and in additon to Dojima and Deanta, there are major multi-million pound investments happening right across the district including, Thorlabs and Anson Packaging in Ely and CP Foods in Fordham.

At a recent business event, I was asked a question that regularly comes up - what support there is locally to help grow a business. 

There are a vast number of government initiatives in place to help businesses succeed and many funding providers within our region. The website ‘Signpost 2 Grow’ led by the Greater Cambridge Greater Peterborough Enterprise and funded through the Government’s Growth Deal is a one stop shop for local businesses to access support, advice, grants and news on relevant events.  

Signpost 2 Grow have links to over 250 different local support and funding schemes, covering a wide range of activities. There is an easy to use Business Support Search tool which requires you to put in your postcode, number of employees and what area you are looking for support with and it will match you to the relevant options available.

Often there are specialist grant schemes available for certain sectors such as research and development, environmental, and agri-tech.  Cambridgeshire’s Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) offers a local grant funding scheme, ’LEADER’, to support rural businesses. The funding comes from the Rural Development Programme (RDP) and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and is managed locally. In the digital space, Connecting Cambridgeshire’s ‘Destination Digital’ project helps businesses gain the skills and technology they need to grow and compete in a digital world. Grants4Growth provide capital grants to purchase and install efficient new processes, production facilities and clean tech. Low Carbon Keep, as the name suggests, helps small to medium businesses save carbon, and also, as the name suggests ‘Agri-Tech’ supports the development of the agri-tech industry across our area. There are also certain pots of money available for women led businesses and female entrepreneurs. All of these and many more can be accessed via the Signpost 2 Grow website which will connect your business to the relevant support opportunities.

The Treasury have confirmed that funding for businesses awarded through EU grant schemes will be honoured beyond Brexit as long as the funding arrangements have been put in place prior to the UK leaving the European Union, even when commitments continue beyond our departure from the EU.

Whether you have an existing business and are looking to expand in size or sell to a wider audience or whether you’re just thinking about developing an idea into a business, there’s an extensive range of options being made available by the Government and being managed and distributed locally. In addition to financial support there is mentoring support, specialist direction and apprenticeship facilitation, all of which play a vital role in enabling businesses to negotiate the indisputable challenges of growing and developing. 

As continued investment in our region by big business shows, we have a lot to offer. The large number of locally relevant government initiatives and grants in place also mean we are a great area in which to start and grow a business. There is every reason why we should continue to be at the forefront of business and employment growth in years to come.