Stoke Staffs LEP
LEP celebrates small business award

LEP celebrates small business award

A pioneering programme advising and supporting small businesses has been recognised with a prestigious award for the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Local Enterprise Partnership.
The LEP’s Growth Hub has been honoured by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) for its work providing advice for small businesses throughout Stoke and Staffordshire, and helping them access the funding needed for growth.
The LEP was highly commended in the FSBLEP Recognition Awards, part of its Local Authority Small Business Friendly Awards.
Karen Woolley, development manager for the FSB, said: “The Local Enterprise Partnership Recognition Award was instigated by the Staffordshire & West Midlands region of the FSB to recognise and celebrate the great, and often unsung, work delivered by our crucial partners for our members and other small businesses.
“We are delighted to have awarded a ‘Highly Commended Award LEP Recognition Award’ to the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire LEP in recognition of the outstanding work it has done on business support to assist our members and other small businesses.
“What has become clear through this awards process is that, even though public sector budgets are being squeezed and resources are diminishing, the FSB’s engagement with its partners continues to go from strength to strength. The commitment and drive to help small businesses to survive and prosper has never been more evident than through this awards process.
“It gave us immense pleasure to recognise the incredible hard work of the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire LEP and we can’t wait to see what they submit next year!”
Pictured with the trophy and certificate at the awards ceremony in Birmingham are, from left, Nicola Kent, business support team leader, Jonathan Dale, LEP board member with responsibility for the Growth Hub, Peter Davenport, economic partnerships manager, and Mark Parkinson, economic development and planning policy manager.
Jonathan Dale commented: “We are delighted to have won this award. It is a tribute to the hard work and dedication of our Growth Hub team. And of course the real prize is to see small businesses in our area growing and flourishing, and creating jobs for local people.”
The Growth Hub is a programme working to improve access to business support and finance for SMEs across Stoke and Staffordshire. It builds upon the LEP’s successful Business Helpline telephone advice service, by providing face-to-face advisers employed by the Chambers of Commerce and by focusing the activities of a wide range of external business support providers on the needs of local businesses.
It has been designed to enable local companies to realise their growth potential by offering grant funding for expansion, capital equipment purchases, support for training, and research and development.
The Growth Hub has piloted two new finance initiatives delivered by external fund managers, both of which have exceeded expectations in terms of demand and job creation among local businesses.
The £1.1m Growth Hub programme engaged nearly 1,950 businesses during the pilot period, from January 2014 to June 2015 (exceeding its target of 1,300) and has contracted to create 210 jobs from two grant funding programmes. It has also provided £94,000 in match-funded grants to over 60 small businesses that are being supported by UKTI, to help develop their international trade.
In addition, more than £2m private sector match-funding has also been invested as a result of the Growth Hub.
Funding for Growth Hub activities was provided from the Government’s Regional Growth Fund, under grant contract with Lancaster University, which is working with 15 growth hubs across England. Following the successful pilot, Growth Hub Year 2 activities are now funded by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
Examples of the Growth Hub’s award-winning work include specialist grant funding for small businesses seeking to develop international markets.
One local firm to benefit is Stone-based Tim Toft Violins, which was awarded match funding to help the company attend an international music exhibition in China.
Tim Toft commented: “Going to Music China was a significant investment for us and the match funding from the Growth Hub really made a difference; we couldn’t have gone without their support. It was an excellent opportunity to build relationships and we made some good contacts with dealers and retailers in China.’’


Lancaster University plays two distinct and innovative roles in the Wave 2 Growth Hub programme – as programme managers and as expert support to programme development. A first for universities in the UK, this programme demonstrates the dynamic roles that universities, and especially their business schools, can play in the UK’s Growth Agenda. Lancaster University, which was named as a top-ten university for SME engagement in the recent Witty Review and has received a Gold Small Business Charter Award, successfully bid to run this Regional Growth Fund programme. This is due to its Management School’s long-standing reputation for innovative support to business, and also because of the university’s experience and expertise in successfully managing European Funding programmes across the UK.


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