SWRDA unveils support for local businesses

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South West businesses battling the economic downturn are being supported with a raft of financial and advisory measures. 
 
The South West RDA will:
 
– Set up a new Business Loan Fund of up to £10million for a small number of ambitious firms with viable business plans which are unable get support from commercial banks or private investors. Loans of up to £250,000 will be available early next year;
 
– Double the amount of money available to businesses under the RDA’s Grant for Research and Development over 3 years. Businesses can apply for between £5,000 and £500,000 depending on the type of project. The next round of funding will be released on April 1, 2009 but businesses are strongly recommended to apply now to leave time for their applications to be appraised and for queries to be dealt with. 

 
– Add to the almost £2m spent on the Graduates for Business programme, a scheme which gives companies access to the talents of undergraduates and university leavers. Enhanced funding will enable more graduates to be placed with, in particular, environmental technology and advanced engineering companies.
 
These are just three of a series of measures outlined in the South West RDA’s ‘Action for Recovery’ published yesterday (Wednesday 12 November) at the RDA’s Business Stakeholder Conference in Bristol. It spells out how the RDA will develop or expand its existing programmes in the face of the global economic downturn, especially the work of Business Link. Business Link acts as a gateway to an array of advice and support for small and medium sized businesses. 
 
Stephen Peacock, South West RDA Executive Director Enterprise and Innovation, said: “The global economy is facing unprecedented challenges and for many of the region’s businesses, simply surviving is getting tougher by the day. Responding to the short term economic uncertainty is of paramount importance. With our partners, we will be doing all we can to help businesses deal with the economic crisis and chart a course for recovery.” 
 
Peacock added: “This does not mean that we have shifted our focus away from investing in the long term health of the economy. We are still committed to developing a low-carbon economy, boosting productivity by investing in skills and innovation and making sure the region’s key places are competitive and successful. We will come out of the global economic down turn. We need to ensure that when we do, the South West is ready to do business.”
 
Other initiatives outlined in the South West RDA’s ‘Action for Recovery’ document include:
 
– Access to loans of up to £50,000 from Community Finance Initiatives (CFI). The RDA has invested over £1.6m into CFIs over the last three years and the network has lent over £10m to businesses. 

 
– Access to support and finance for land-based businesses from the Rural Development Programme for England. This is EU money, administered in the South West by the RDA and the Business Link-operated Rural Enterprise Gateway.

– Enhanced support package from the RDA-funded Business Link service, including: financial advice; guidance on how to survive and thrive in difficult times; information on new business opportunities and markets; and access to the more flexible Train to Gain service which will enable businesses to get shorter, more relevant training. For more information on how to access this support please ring Business Link on 0845 600 9966.
 
– The RDA and its partners are encouraging Government to make further changes to the Train to Gain scheme to reflect the pressing needs of both businesses and individuals. 
 
– RDA investment in a programme for Union Learning Representatives to promote training in businesses and to provide additional redundancy support to that offered by Jobcentre Plus. For more information please visit www.unionlearn.org.uk
 
– Discussions with major banks to ensure South West business interests are high on the agenda. 
 
– Discussions with Government about how best to ensure that businesses in the region can quickly draw down funding from the European Investment Bank. 
 
– A Regional Business Forum has been established to ensure close contact with business representative organisations to gather intelligence on business problems and work together in developing solutions. 
 
– A dedicated e-mail address business@southwestrda.org.uk now exists to capture relevant up-to-date information from all partners and stakeholders on the state of the economy.
 
– Commitment by the South West RDA to meeting the Government’s target of paying invoices within 10 days. Also the South West RDA spends 14% of its procurement budget with SMEs and aims to increase this to 20%, operating within EU regulations.
 
 
In order to prepare businesses in the region for the economic recovery, the RDA is also looking at:
 
– Ways of establishing an RDA Green Opportunities Fund to help small businesses meet the investment costs of resource efficiency. This will complement the Resource Efficiency Advice Programme delivered by Business Link.
 
– Ways in which the RDA can develop a package of support for entrepreneurs operating in the field of clean technology.