Business growth, skills and innovation projects across Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire are set to benefit from a £138 million package of streamlined European funding up to 2020.
The allocation to the local enterprise partnership is part of £11billion investment announced today to support economic growth across the UK under the European Union’s Structural and Investment Fund (ESIF) programme. The announcement launches a bidding process for projects in the LEP area which demonstrate they are enabling business growth and skills development. Projects should boost innovation, ICT development, small and medium sized business growth and low carbon efficiency. Funding will be accessed through the LEP.
EU funding has played a crucial role in the economic growth agenda across Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire over the past 30 years with over £150m supporting projects and programmes. Most recently, under the 2007-13 programme, the Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Business Loan Scheme has been supported by European Regional Development Fund to the value of £1 million, helping 61 businesses access finance for their growth plans when other options of commercial sources of funding had been exhausted.
Three years ago, work started on the biggest makeover Stoke-on-Trent city centre has received in a generation. The project has been part funded (£3.8 million) by the West Midlands European Regional Development Fund Programme 2007-2013. A key part of the upgrade was to create a city centre which attracted people and could compete with others.
ESIF brings together the former European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund and part of the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.
Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire Enterprise Partnership chairman David Frost said: “The ESIF programme is a major opportunity to secure significant resources to support our economic growth plan. EU funding has supported the delivery of many economic regeneration projects and equally important skills and social inclusion programmes. Our allocation will be able to match other resources secured from the Government through the City and Growth Deals, as well as attracting significant private sector investment. We have already identified important projects and programmes that could benefit.”
In addition, three national programme bidding calls to support manufacturing, accelerate business growth and improve the international trade performance of small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) are also being announced by the Government. This is the first bidding call which is expected to be repeated in June and the autumn this year and then repeated at regular intervals throughout the programme.