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Join the North East LEP Investment Board

We are looking for three passionate, well-connected business people from across the area to join the Investment Board.

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is committed to driving economic growth, delivering more and better jobs for the North East as set out in our Strategic Economic Plan (SEP). To do this, the business-led, partnership brings together the private sector, local authorities and university and college representatives to deliver against six strategic programmes: innovation, business growth, skills, employability and inclusion, economic assets and infrastructure and connectivity.

To deliver the ambitious agenda set out in the Strategic Economic Plan, several programmes of investment have been established and must have a business- and commercial- focus and invest in the strength present in the North East.

We are looking for three passionate, well-connected business people from across the area to join the Investment Board who are willing to volunteer their time and input their specialist knowledge and expertise to ensure effective investment decision making. Specifically at this time we are looking to appoint three external technical advisors relating to:

• Corporate Finance
• Property Development
• Investment / Access to Finance

If you have the drive, passion, business insight, skills and experience at a senior management or board level in any one of these areas and significant awareness of the North East economy we would love to hear from you. To find out more or apply, click here.

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In conversation: Heather Heward, North East LEP Programme Manager: how a recent update to the European Social Fund (ESF) rules will unlock investment across the region.


In our latest blog post, Heather Heward, North East LEP Programme Manager, discusses how a recent update to the European Social Fund (ESF) rules will unlock investment across the region.

We are delighted to announce that an ESF applicant no longer has to have all employer match funding in place before the project commences.

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has worked closely with the ESF Managing Authority to secure this change.

We’re extremely pleased with the decision as this will unlock significant private investment to upskill those in employment. These changes not only benefit the North East LEP area, but also will have the potential to unlock employer match across England.

Employer contributions are defined as the financial contribution made by the employer towards support put in place by the ESF project, for example financial contributions towards the undertaking of training for the workforce or employment costs associated with undertaking work placements and internships.

Each project will still be considered and appraised on its own merits. However, a project should be able to use employer contributions as match funding and remain compliant with ESF rules if grant applicants and employers maintain a detailed adequate audit trail and meet all ESF regulations.

Essentially, the project could now be approved and commence as long as there is a demonstrated level of demand for the service in terms of expected employer contributions.

The applicant will of course have to show really robust compliance at every stage but we think it really has the potential to transform the way we train and up-skill our workforces.

Here at the LEP, we are thrilled with the development as we feel it’s going give employers the boost they need by providing financial support towards the business-specific training they need to upskill their workforces; it will also provide the opportunity for employees to progress within the workplace.

We now need good, strong applications using the employer model to respond to the current ESF open calls to maximise these opportunities for local businesses. Details on the calls can be found on the LEP website here
We completely welcomes the news and look forward to seeing the economic benefits for the region.

If you have any questions, please get in touch.

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We are welcoming Expressions of Interest for the Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund.

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is seeking Expressions of Interest for its consideration in responding to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund.

DCMS introduced the £15m Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund (NCRF) in August 2017 in order to create a lasting legacy of cultural regeneration following the Great Exhibition of the North, which is being hosted in Newcastle Gateshead from June-September 2018.

The two key goals of the fund are to: –
• Encourage sustainable cultural and creative regeneration in the North of England
• Benefit areas of the North of England that have historically had low levels of cultural and creative investment.

The 11 North of England Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), including the North East LEP, have each been invited to submit a single bid into this fund. The fund will provide a small number of capital grants, with awards expected to be around £3m-£4m (and up to a maximum of 70% of project costs).

More information and guidance for organisations considering bringing forward a proposal to the LEP can be found here

Our call for proposals will be open until noon on 5 October 2017. Submission must come forward using our Expression of Interest form, which can be obtained by emailing Ben McLaughlin or calling 0191 3387446.

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How to benefit from the revolution in innovation funding

A surge in Government innovation investment is under way. Laura White, Communications Manager at the Innovation SuperNetwork, finds out how regional businesses can take advantage of this by talking to local funding specialist Peter Graham who’s working with the North East BIC to ensure the area makes the most of the money.

Q. Tell us about this new wave of investment in innovation and how did it come about?

Late in 2016 the Chancellor Philip Hammond announced an extra £2bn a year of Government funds will be invested in innovation by 2020-21, a 20% increase on current funding. This rise in innovation spending is important because the UK has seen nothing like it for decades, during which time we’ve trailed well behind our international competitors in government R&D investment. It is causing much excitement as it represents a revolution in innovation funding, which could have far reaching benefits for businesses.

Q. So why now, and what does it mean for North East businesses?

The Industrial Strategy Green Paper, launched in January this year, heralds the arrival of a more interventionist Government approach to boosting economic growth in all parts of the UK. And innovation is front and centre of this, with more funding and support promised for UK businesses to develop the technologies of the future, creating jobs and prosperity along the way. The Government wants the UK to be a world-leading innovation nation, investing in technologies and sectors where we can take a global lead. To help us get there, two funding routes are being made available.

Q. Where is the new money coming from?

Firstly, the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) will invest £1bn in joint projects with businesses, supply chains and universities working together to solve global challenges and unlock the industries of the future. Technologies in focus include healthcare and medicine, battery technology, materials manufacturing, and artificial intelligence.

Meanwhile, through its ‘open programme’, Innovate UK is inviting businesses of all sizes to bid for grants from £10,000 up to £300,000 for ‘disruptive’ innovation projects, developing technologies and products that shake-up existing markets or create completely new ones.

The opportunities are out there now, and look set to accelerate from 2017 onwards. Innovate UK ran an open funding competition in February 2017, with another open until August 9. And in April this year the first projects supported by the ISCF received their funding, with more bidding rounds announced in June.

Q. What does it mean for North East businesses?

Because this new money comes through national challenge funds, North East businesses must be ready to bid in direct competition with firms across the UK, from Gateshead to Glasgow, and Grimsby to Guildford. In many cases, it will mean groups of businesses collaborating to develop projects and win funding. Achieving success in this competitive environment requires strong innovation projects backed by equally strong funding bids.

Q. What support is there to access the funding?

To help the region capitalise on these crucial funding opportunities, the North East BIC is launching a brand new service to help businesses, research institutes, and universities to develop this winning combination of stand-out innovation projects and compelling grant funding bids.

As part of this November’s VentureFest North East, the BIC will be running a free workshop on how to secure UK grant funding for your innovation project, with essential tips for creating a winning bid. Register for this event here.

In the meantime, if you need advice on grant funding opportunities for your innovation project contact the Innovation Team on 0191 516 6035 or email [email protected]


About the expert

Peter Graham is a local funding specialist who has entered into a collaborative partnership with the North East BIC to help businesses to secure UK grant funding for innovation projects.

About the Innovation SuperNetwork

The Innovation SuperNetwork is a unique network supporting innovation and business growth across the North East of England. Its programme is developed with around 50 partner organisations and is supported by Innovate UK, the North East LEP, Northumbrian Water Group and the North East BIC, with part funding from the European Regional Development Fund. The Innovation SuperNetwork delivers inspiring events including VentureFest North East and FinanceCamp, helps businesses explore new opportunities through projects such as Innovation Challenge and supports collaboration by creating links between sectors and bodies of expertise.

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£5 million industrial units development given the green light

Planning permission has been granted for three new large industrial units in Hebburn. The units, which will be built on the Monkton Business Park, are expected to create over 100 jobs.

Washington-based Hellens Group, which is leading the project to create 55,000 square feet (5,110 square metres) of new industrial space, has received £1.27m from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP’s) Local Growth Fund that is helping a range of industrial and commercial infrastructure projects across the North East LEP area along with loan funding of £1.7M from the North East Investment Fund (NEIF), an evergreen loan fund also administered by the North East LEP

Gavin Cordwell-Smith, chief executive at Hellens Group, said: “The development is fantastic news for South Tyneside and the wider region. These new units will offer growing businesses modern manufacturing space with 6-8m eaves height, and good power availability. We will work with prospective tenants to develop the internal layout of the units and offer cost-competitive rates on long term leases. We are tremendously appreciative of the support for the project that we’ve had from both South Tyneside Council and the North East LEP.”

Work will commence on site in September with a target completion date of September 2018. There will be one large unit of 30,000 square feet and two smaller units of 15,000 and 10,000 square feet although there is the option for prospective businesses to combine the two smaller units into a 35,000 square foot facility. The units will come with their own service yards and parking facilities.

Monkton Business Park has rapidly developed into a key business location in South Tyneside. The 16ha site provides a range of office and industrial facilities on the edge of town, on a landscaped setting which forms part of the Great North Forest. The southern part of the site provides a major new office campus, with more than 18,000m2 of speculatively built new office space, while a range of manufacturing accommodation is provided to the north.

The site is located close to the A184 – between the A19 and A1- in close proximity to Newcastle and Sunderland. The location gives excellent access to the regional road network and is well placed to serve manufacturers with supply chains north and south of the River Tyne. Importantly, it is less than 15 minutes away from the planned International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP) and Nissan’s Sunderland car plant.

The site is already home to a number of companies including Siemens, Hitachi Construction Machinery Ltd, Variable Message Signs (VMS) Ltd, Ford Component Manufacturing, Clugston Construction and Kier North along with many others.

Leader of South Tyneside Council, Councillor Iain Malcolm, said: “This is excellent news for South Tyneside, with regional funds from the LEP being used in a targeted way to grow the borough’s business prospects. I’m delighted that funding from LEP’s North East Investment Fund and the Local Growth Fund will enable construction of these much-needed units to get underway this year.”

The £270.4m Local Growth Fund, secured as part of the North East Growth Deal, supports the North East LEP’s delivery of the Strategic Economic Plan, which aims to create 100,000 more and better jobs by 2024. The North East Investment Fund was established as an evergreen loan funding to support capital projects that will lead to job creation.

David Land, Chair of the North East LEP’s Investment Panel, said: “Businesses in our region, particularly growing SMEs, are looking for new, state of-the-art facilities. Hellens Group has a strong track record in delivering projects and this scheme ticks many of the boxes in the LEP’s priorities and objectives, including supporting enterprise and private sector business growth; and strengthening transport, connectivity and infrastructure in the region.

By investing and developing in new infrastructure we can help create more and better jobs for the North East.”

Once built, the three units will be retained by Hellens Group and available to let by way of FRI leases.

Over the past five years Hellens Group has invested in excess of £10 million on a programme of new developments across the North East.

The company has already received a number of speculative enquiries from prospective tenants, from a range of manufacturing companies including both SME’s and larger businesses. Businesses wanting further information on the Monkton Business Park units should contact GVA or HTA Real Estate who are acting as joint agents for the development.

Notes to editors:

About Hellens Group

The Hellens Group based in Washington, Tyne and Wear, includes property, construction and manufacturing businesses with interests throughout the North East and Yorkshire.

The original business (John Hellens (Contracts) Ltd) was founded in 1973 in the North East of England. Focusing at that time on the regeneration of brownfield sites, the company became leading experts in this field throughout the North of England.  Over the years the company has adapted to changing market conditions and has moved into sports and recreation facility construction, land and property development and investment as well as manufacturing of hard landscaping products for the building industry.

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First call to business to apply for new European funding

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership is calling for local organisations to apply for funding from the new European Programme, worth £460m to the local area.

The new 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme has just been launched by Government and the first local calls released for schemes to access early funding opportunities.

The funding programme offers huge opportunities for the North East economy, helping to fund major investment in projects driving local economic growth, creating new jobs and prosperity. Expert help is available through the LEP to help organisations understand the requirements they will need to meet to qualify for funding.

Grants to cover 50% of project costs are available – 60% in County Durham – for innovation and business support, revenue and capital schemes through the European Regional Development Fund while the European Social Fund will support employment and skills initiatives.

A call to launch the Youth Employment Initiative in County Durham is also being made using European funding. County Durham qualifies for an additional £7.7m from the EU’s Youth Employment Initiative to help people aged 15-24 to find work.

These priority themes are highlighted in the LEP’s Strategic Economic Plan which seeks to help the North East access and make the most of European Structural and Investment Funds.

The calls are the first in a series of opportunities for businesses and organisations to apply to the new European Programme, with more calls expected in summer 2015 and throughout the lifespan of the programme.

More information on North East local priorities is available through the LEP to help organisations understand the type of projects required to gain funding and local priorities projects will have to address to qualify for support.

Paul Woolston, North East LEP Chair, said: “Our allocation of European Structural and Investment Funds for 2014-2020 brings us an enormous opportunity.

“Key themes in our overarching Strategic Economic Plan – innovation, business support, skills and employability and inclusion – align neatly with European objectives in this first call to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth.

“After the Strategic Economic Plan secured one of the best funding deals in the country for the North East, our job now is to make sure this new round of European funding helps us continue to make the North East a place where more businesses invest, grow and prosper, delivering more and better jobs.”

Organisations and businesses seeking guidance on the latest round of European Structural Funds should visit the LEP’s European funding and strategy pages or follow us on Twitter @northeastlep

Calls will be published through the GOV.UK website

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Vision becomes a reality for city business partners

Members of Sunderland Business Group met recently at Hope Street Xchange, the University of Sunderland’s new centre for enterprise and innovation, designed to support the city’s entrepreneurial growth.

Hope Street Xchange is a £10m centre for enterprise and innovation, funded by the University of Sunderland and supported by £4.9m investment from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s Local Growth Fund. The centre supports fledgling start-ups and offers space for existing businesses to develop and grow. Located on the University’s city centre campus, it also serves as a gateway to the University’s research, expertise and problem solving provision.

Sunderland Business Group was behind the initial proposal for a one-stop shop to increase entrepreneurship in the city and tackle the low levels of enterprise and business start-ups in the region. Representing leaders from public and private sectors, the Business Group works collaboratively on strategic projects to support Sunderland’s growth and prosperity; the University is one of the group’s founding members, and has been central to its many successful initiatives, all of which have benefited the city.

Shirley Atkinson, Vice-Chancellor at the University of Sunderland, commented: “The Business Group’s vision was to create a hub where businesses can interact with the University to support their innovation and growth. That could be for internships and placements, knowledge transfer partnerships or higher or degree apprenticeships. We also wanted to support creative endeavour through access to facilities and laboratory space – including the region’s first FabLab where designers and entrepreneurs can prototype ideas using the latest digital fabrication facilities.

“The approach proposed by Business Group partners resonates with our University’s vision, as outlined in our Strategic Plan ‘We are the Tomorrow Makers’. This plan, which we launched last autumn, sets out a bold ambition for Sunderland graduates to become the future leaders of societies and economies. The plan also articulates the University’s role as an anchor institution in the North East, making significant social, economic and cultural contributions to its locality. A recent independent economic impact study estimates that the University generates £432m GVA for the North East economy, supporting 5,400 jobs, we’re very proud of that impact and that our ‘Tomorrow Makers’ vision will become reality through this University and city initiative.”

Now open, Hope Street Xchange will accommodate 49 established businesses and 150 new business ventures, creating almost 400 jobs in innovative, high-growth sectors linked to the University’s academic strengths and research practice, including advanced manufacturing and technology, health sciences, business and finance, and the creative and cultural sector.

Hope Street Xchange will also provide immediate access to a wealth of ‘real life’ applied research, practical business advice, expert mentoring, knowledge transfer partnerships and support through student work placements and graduate interns.

Hans Moller, Innovation Director at the North East LEP, said: “The finished building provides a nurturing environment to support innovative entrepreneurialism and welcomes businesses large and small to engage with the University. We’re excited to see the great things that will no doubt emerge from such an enterprising initiative.”

As well as the region’s first FabLab the centre includes hatchery and hot-desk space for University staff and student enterprise projects, flexible light-industrial, laboratory and office space for businesses seeking to co-locate with the University, a new home for the University’s graduate enterprise development facility, and a choice of 30 Grade A offices plus workshops, conference area and meeting spaces.

A team of advisers, including a dedicated business development support team provide a wrap around service for the Hope Street Xchange community of entrepreneurs, businesses, and fledgling enterprises.

The £270m Local Growth Fund, secured as part of the North East Growth Deal, supports the North East LEP’s delivery of the Strategic Economic Plan, which aims to create 100,000 more and better jobs by 2024.


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New £10 million property fund launched in North East

A £10million property fund aimed at supporting smaller scale North East construction and property development projects will provide an important boost for the construction industry.

The idea for the fund was conceived by FW Capital, the investment company based in the North of England, who will now manage the North East Property Fund. The fund is backed by Santander and the North East LEP and is held by NPF 2016 Ltd, a special purpose vehicle set up by directors Michael Smith and Geoff Hodgson for this purpose.

The North East Property Fund has been created in response to strong demand from small and medium-sized (SME) construction and property development companies who are unable to access mainstream finance from traditional sources and is hoped it will help kick start development in smaller scale property ventures across the North East.
“Santander is proud to support this new venture which will have a tangible impact on the local North East economy, including significant job creation,” said Stephen Carmichael, Relationship Director, Santander Corporate & Commercial.


“This is a brand new fund concept in the North East combining both public and private money to benefit SME property developers in the region. We were pleased when FW Capital approached us and the North East LEP about the fund idea. It’s a bold and compelling initiative that is confronting head-on the urgent need to deliver more new-build property.”


The fund will provide loans from £250,000 to £1 million for non-speculative residential and commercial developments in Tyne & Wear, Northumberland and County Durham. Typical repayment terms are between nine and 18 months.
Like other regions in the UK, smaller construction and property development companies have struggled to access finance from traditional lenders, leading to a new-build deficit in residential and commercial properties. This has in turn led to housing shortages in the area.


In terms of the North East itself, an estimated 6,440 homes were built last year vs an annual target of 9,000; only 1,420 of the 3,800 target for affordable homes were built in the region; this shortfall is compounding the legacy deficit year on year.


David Land, the North East LEP Investment Panel Chair said: “The North East Property Fund will tackle a pressing need identified in the region’s Strategic Economic Plan to build more homes which in turn will help drive economic growth.


“Our ambition is for the North East to return to pre-recession housing rates of more than 6,000 new houses a year and this new fund provides smaller construction firms with the confidence to pursue projects to build vital new housing.


“A similar fund in Wales has had a proven impact and demand to access this type of investment in our region is strong.”


The fund is based on the highly successful Wales Property Development Fund that has been operating for almost four years within the Finance Wales Group. FW Capital is part of the Finance Wales Group and they currently manage a number of funds in the North of England.


“At FW Capital we’re able to combine our existing local knowledge with shared expertise regarding property fund management in the wider Finance Wales Group,” explained Fund Manager Joanne Whitfield. “We’ve supported some excellent companies in the North East over the last seven years with a range of growth finance solutions from short-term loans to mezzanine and equity finance.


“We’re looking to expand our offering so that developers here in the North East will benefit from similar success we’ve seen in Wales with the Wales Property Development Fund. We pride ourselves on being a trusted finance partner of small and medium businesses across the North of England and we are delighted to be able to offer this new product to support smaller developers to grow.


The fund will operate on a commercial basis and by reinvesting returns into future projects it has the potential to provide over £30 million of finance into smaller developers over the next five years.


It aims to finance the build of over 300 new homes and finance the development of around 4000 square metres of commercial space. This is forecast to contribute in excess of £25m to the regional economy, creating or safeguarding over 600 local jobs.


Square One Law acted for FW Capital on setting up the Fund, Ward Hadaway acted for Santander and DWF acted for the North East LEP. PwC and UNW provided financial due diligence services to Santander and the North East LEP.


The team at Square One Law has been involved in the creation of over 25 funds . Mark Lazenby, Partner and Head of Finance, said: “The creation of a property fund for the North East is great news. This is the first time a fund like this has been set up in England and it will build on the great work FW Capital has done with the Wales Property Development Fund as well as assisting the North East LEP to deliver its Strategic Economic Plan.

“The use of innovative funding structures like this to help recycle public monies and create public/private partnerships

will be a good way to help sustain economic growth in the North East.”


Businesses wishing to apply for investment from the fund should contact Tony Cullen at FW Capital on 0191 269 6966, email Tony at [email protected] or visit http://www.fwcapital.co.ukfor more information.

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£9.7m in grant funding available for rural businesses through the Rural Development Programme for England

The latest round of grant funding from the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE) for the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) area has been announced, with grant funding totalling £9.7m available to businesses in the food processing, tourism and rural business development sectors.

The RDPE provides funding for projects in England which create jobs and growth in the rural economy.

Applications are being sought for projects that will grow a business, create jobs or bring more money in to the rural economy. Grant funding can help pay for constructing or improving buildings, and buying new equipment and machinery.

Three grant funds are available: Rural Business Development Grants, Rural Tourism Infrastructure Grants and Food Processing Grants.

Rural business development grants will help fund the growth of small rural businesses, new or existing. This includes farmers who want to diversify in to non-agricultural activities.

Rural tourism infrastructure grants will help fund the costs of capital expenditure on tourism infrastructure. The aim is to support projects that will encourage more tourists to come, to stay longer, and to spend more money in rural areas.

Food processing grants will help fund food processing businesses to grow and create jobs. This is for food and drink processing businesses which process agricultural and horticultural products. Examples include meat, milk, grain and root vegetables. Fisheries projects are not eligible.

Colin Bell, Business Growth Director at the North East LEP, said: “The rural economy plays an important part in the region’s overall economic success and we would urge businesses to take this opportunity to access the funding available which will help to grow and develop their business.”

The capital grants, which will be made available from the Rural Payments Agency, will fund up to 40% of a project’s costs with the minimum grant amount being £35,000. This means that a project’s overall cost would need to be over £87,500 to be eligible for the funding. To be eligible for the grants, businesses must be located in the eligible rural areas of County Durham, Northumberland and Gateshead or within the North East Rural Growth Network boundary, (see map).

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership works closely with Government to ensure that the European Funding allocation is aligned to projects that help deliver the North East Strategic Economic Plan. Priority sectors are manufacturing and engineering, pharmaceuticals, food and drink, and knowledge intensive business services and creative businesses.

Three workshops will be held for businesses to find out more about the funds. These are planned for:-

Tuesday 14 February – Kirkley Hall, Northumberland
One workshop covering tourism grants and a separate workshop for rural business development and food processing grants.

Thursday 16 February – Durham County Hall, Durham
This workshop will cover food business development and food processing grants.

To book a place at any of these events, click here

There is no deadline for applicants as the calls are open until January 2018, although applications will be reviewed every three months.

Full details of the calls and guidance notes can be found: here

Applicants are invited to submit expressions of interest via email to[email protected]

The grants are funded by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD), which is part of the European Structural Investment Funds (ESIF).

The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) supports European policy on rural development. To this end, it finances rural development programmes across the Member States and the regions of the Union. Programmes are designed in cooperation between the European Commission and the Member States, taking into account the strategic guidelines for rural development policy adopted by the Council and the priorities laid down by national strategy plans.