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Thames Valley Berkshire

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Business Support and Funding

Berkshire Business Growth Hub

Since 2013 the LEP has invested over £3.3m into the establishment of a Business Growth Hub. The Berkshire Business Growth Hub is the first stop shop for business support in Berkshire with the aim to enhance and accelerate business performance, help more businesses to take advantage of national and local support programmes, increase jobs and raise levels of exporting.

The Growth Hub service includes the following services: Light Touch support via the website and telephone, Pre-accelerator Programme, High Growth Programme and ScaleUp Berkshire Programme. In addition, a comprehensive programme of one-to-one clinics and masterclasses is on offer covering a range of topics from digital marketing, exporting, business law and preparing your business for the future supporting businesses on a variety of changes, including exit from the EU. As at September 2019,  the Hub has created 222 and safeguarded 43 jobs, engaged with 2,566 businesses and provided intensive support to 923 businesses.

There is an array of business support information and guidance available to businesses, the Growth Hub’s aim is to simplify access to support available. Visit the Berkshire Business Growth Hub (Link) to find links to local and national business services and access initial business advice and resources via an online Information & Resource Tool.

Growing Places Fund

A Growing Places Fund of just over £15m was awarded to the LEP by government in 2012, to promote jobs and economic growth in the area. It is structured as a revolving loan fund.

The GPF is designed to generate economic activity by addressing immediate infrastructure to enable the delivery of jobs and housing. The fund is based on principles of investment, repayment and reinvestment, where applicants repay the loaned monies so that the LEP can re-invest into further schemes across the area. The £15m fund can only be used for capital expenditure and has an average loan term of five years.

The LEP has helped to kick-start local projects including the forward-funding of three town centre regeneration schemes. This investment will help to create over 5,000 homes and 9,000 jobs in the short to medium term.

In early 2013, the LEP took the bold and innovative step to invest £7.3m GPF into a bespoke Funding Escalator; the first such investment of GPF by a LEP. The Funding Escalator is managed by the (FCA-regulated) FSE Group and is bespoke for high growth potential SMEs. Further GPF has been invested in the Funding Escalator to bringing the total to £11.3m.

Legitimate requests for GPF loans can be categorised as follows:

  • SMEs with high growth potential are referred to the FSE Group as the Funding Escalator is designed for these types of applicants
  • Proposals to address infrastructure and site constraints, and promote the delivery of housing are referred to the Growing Places Fund guidance.

For guidance visit Growing Places Fund guidance

To see how the LEP has invested Growing Places Funds in Berkshire, view our Growing Places Fund eBook

Funding Escalator

The Funding Escalator provides finance to SMEs with aspirations to grow quickly and create jobs through repayable Expansion loans of between £25,000 and £300,000. The Thames Valley Berkshire Growth Fund invests in high growth SMEs and can provide up to £250,000 of equity. A diverse range of businesses have been offered support, from music composition to medical diagnostics, and more recently security software and temperature-controlled containers. The LEP Forum agreed to restructure the Funding Escalator to an evergreen model from 2019. As at September 2019, over £11m in business loans and equity has been drawn down by ambitious SMEs based in Berkshire with the potential to deliver high growth and employment opportunities with 762 jobs created/safeguarded and £33m of private funding raised by approved clients either alongside or after LEP intervention. For further information visit Thames Valley Berkshire Funding Escalator

European Structural and Investment Funds

In 2013, the Thames Valley Berkshire area was “notionally” allocated circa £25m of European Structural & Investment Funds (ESIF) to be invested over a seven-year period between 2014 and 2020. These funds comprise:

The ESIF Strategy and the Strategic Economic Plan are entirely complementary, with the former providing a key mechanism for the implementation of the latter. Our role and that of our partners is an advisory one through membership of the Thames Valley Berkshire LEP Area ESIF Sub Committee. All funding decisions remain with the Managing Authorities (MAs).