Over 20 Cornish projects, representing £30 million investment and with potential for more than 200 new jobs, are in the running for grant aid under the new Convergence Funding programme.
The number is growing daily and shows that Cornwall is finally “waking up” to the new programme’s potential, says Russell Dodge, managing director of Business Location Services Ltd, the Truro-based project management and grant funding consultancy.
The successor project to Objective One offers the prospect of £470 million of European Union money being spent on Cornwall over the next six years.
But according to Dodge the new scheme has been slow to get off the ground – being “probably even more intensely bureaucratic than its predecessor” – and Cornish firms have been slow to realise its potential.
“In many ways, Convergence Funding is Cornwall’s lifeline,” said Dodge, “and the high-profile launch of its first private sector project, at Watson-Marlow in Falmouth, has acted as a wake-up call for others.
“I believe it is doubly important in Cornwall’s present economic conditions and circumstances for the private sector to take up the Convergence Funding opportunity.
“There is clearly going to be a further squeeze on public expenditure and for the next year or two at least the new unified Cornish authority is going to be more concerned with its own reorganisation than focusing on the delivery of capital infrastructure projects.
“But the Convergence Funding money will not be there indefinitely. So much has to be taken up in each year of the programme – any surplus not used in one year will not be rolled on into the next.”
Prince Andrew recently cut the first turf for a major expansion project at Watson-Marlow, the world’s largest manufacturer of peristaltic hose pumps, tube pumps, and filling systems.
The project, which will more than treble its tube production, is being supported by just over £1 million of Convergence Funding grant aid secured by Business Location Services.
The Watson-Marlow expansion will also help develop a low carbon economy by delivering Cornwall’s first “BREEAM-excellent” industrial building as gauged by the world-leading BRE Environmental Assessment Method.
“If not exactly opening the floodgates, the Watson-Marlow project has certainly raised awareness of the Convergence Funding potential,” said Dodge, “and the New Year has seen a noticeable pick-up in interest and activity from other firms.
“The 20-plus projects that we are currently handling range from speculative industrial offices to bespoke manufacturing and food-related companies.”
Dodge added: “For a capital expenditure project, a company in Cornwall can win at least 30 per cent of the cost through Convergence Funding grant aid. This in turn removes a big chunk of risk when a project is being assessed for bank finance.”