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Horizon 2020: European fund seeks innovative business projects

Horizon 2020: Businesses can apply for funding for a range of business projects in areas from food security to smart cities and green vehicles.

A European funding programme is to invest more than €550 millon across 6 initiatives launched this month.

Business support is available for projects in a range of fields including sustainable food security, rural innovation and business, marine projects, the bioeconomy, smart cities and green vehicles.

The funding is part of the EU’s Horizon 2020 fund for researchers and business, which aims to ensure Europe produces world-class science and that barriers to innovation are removed.

Find out more about Horizon 2020.

Government underwrites European funding

The UK Government recently said that businesses and universities should continue to bid for EU funding while the UK remained a member of the EU and that it would underwrite payment of awards even when projects continued beyond UK membership.

Find out more about the UK Government’s guarantee on funding for participants in EU projects.

The funding opportunities

Six new Horizon 2020 funding calls are now open.

Sustainable food security: €280.5 million is available across a variety of topic areas in crop and livestock production and aquaculture. Closing date 14 February 2017. Find out more

Rural renaissance: €61 million is available across a variety of topic areas including land management, rural business models and speeding up innovation in rural areas. Closing date 14 February 2017. Find out more

Blue growth: €48.4 million is available across a variety of topic areas including specialised vessels for coastal and offshore activities, clean coasts and seas, improving seafood and monitoring of fish stocks. Closing date 14 February 2017. Find out more

Bio-based innovation for sustainable goods and services: €26.4 million is available across a variety of topic areas including forest production, strategies for improving the bioeconomy and a plant molecular factory. Closing date 14 February 2017. Find out more

Smart cities and communities: funding is available to demonstrate innovative integrated infrastructures. Closing date 14 February 2017. Find out more

Green vehicles: €133 million is available for nine topics including integration of electric vehicles with the grid, aerodynamics, and powertrain development. Closing date 1 February 2017. Find out more

Competition information

•all competitions are open
•Horizon 2020 funding opportunities are open to everyone in an EU member state
•projects must be a consortium of at least 3 organisations and each member must have a legal standing such as registered business, partnership or charity
•there are national contact points who can help you to apply for Horizon 2020 funding and to find consortium partners

Find a national contact point.

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Gillian Hall, North East LEP Board Member, gives an update on funds available to support the North East rural economy

Rural businesses and enterprises are a vital part of the North East economy and we know that they can also face barriers to growth which are specific to their rural location, such as poor infrastructure, scarcity of business premises and lack of business networks.

Between 2012 and 2015 £15 million was allocated nationally, from DEFRA, to support Rural Growth Networks to deliver proposals aimed at helping rural areas overcome these barriers.

During this pilot period, the North East Rural Growth Network used its £3.2 million funding allocation to help around 200 new businesses to establish themselves within rural areas; assist more than 1,000 businesses with either financial support or business advice; and create more than 100 new enterprise spaces at 13 business hub sites across the rural North East.

We allocated a further £6m Local Growth Funding from the North East LEP and central Government over the five year period to 2020, allowing continued support to projects in rural areas of Northumberland, Durham and Gateshead.

The range of rural enterprises we’ve already supported is vast, from the £14.2 million development of The Sill, Northumberland’s National Landscape Discovery Centre, through to Knitsley Farm Shop and Granary Café in County Durham, which is creating new jobs and supporting other rural businesses through the extension of its premises and services.

Applications sought

We’d now like to invite applications from projects seeking support from either of the North East Rural Growth Network’s two funds: the Strategic Economic Infrastructure Fund (SEIF) and the Rural Business Growth Fund (RBGF).

The SEIF offers grants of up to 40% of eligible costs to support business infrastructure projects such as the creation of enterprise hubs, large-scale tourism infrastructure projects, the development of new or refurbished business accommodation, and work which will unlock investment sites for commercial, industrial or retail use.

Grants of £10,000 to £60,000 will be available from the RBGF to support small business capital investment projects which will result in diversification, increased production and business growth.

The North East Rural Growth Network is here to help create more and better jobs in our rural economy so if you have a project which might be eligible for support, visit www.archnorthumberland.co.uk to find out more.

Gillian Hall, North East LEP Board Member

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North East LEP seeking Government assurances on Euro funding

Brexit and its impact on European Union structural funding will be more keenly felt in the North East than any other region.

We have an outstanding track record of securing substantial investment from Europe and investing it wisely to drive our economic growth.

While I can’t give cast iron guarantees about future EU funding, I think it’s important to outline where we are currently at and what the North East LEP is doing to press Government for assurances so we can plan ahead for a future without EU investment.

The North East LEP area has £90m of its total £437m EU funding allocation committed to projects planned to run until 2020.

We also have £104m worth of projects in the pipeline, put forward to Government for approval before the referendum vote.

There are big numbers attached to these schemes. In total, they will assist more than 7,400 businesses, support almost 30,000 people into work and help upskill people in work.

So far the Government has stated that it is ‘business as usual’ for contracted projects.
However, for the £104m of pipeline projects, the assurance of being able to secure EU funding is uncertain.

There are two important issues that we are seeking urgent Government assurance on.

Firstly, quantum. We have had verbal commitment – albeit from ministers no longer there – and quite strong public comments that the Government is committed to replacing the quantum of support that the North East currently has from the EU.

There have been more mixed signals since the referendum, however, about whether they will honour the full amount.

We have not had unequivocal certainty from Government. That is fuelling economic uncertainty and we need a commitment quickly that they will underwrite the full amount.

If the Government does commit to match the EU funding being lost, then that brings us to a second issue.

Can the Government commit to an absolute timing mechanism that triggers as soon as the EU funds stop?

That would allow our partners match funding the big structural projects to be able to develop their business cases and plan ahead with greater certainty for the longer term.

The future of the £120m Jeremie 2 fund is another hugely important issue for the North East.

European money makes up half of the fund which we worked hard to keep in the region for the exclusive support of North East small and medium-sized businesses.

We are seeking assurance that there will not be a negative impact on Jeremie 2 due to Brexit. In parallel, we are also exploring alternative ways to deliver similar support if that scenario arises.

A substantial amount of regional funding comes from the UK, through the Regional and Local Growth Funds and Enterprise Zones.

We handed our final submission for Local Growth Fund 3 to Government this week. We have put forward a very ambitious list of projects for the North East.

A really positive signal from Government would be a positive response to our Local Growth Fund bid – that would demonstrate real confidence in our economic future.

By Andrew Hodgson, North East LEP Chair

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Call for bids for mentoring in schools

The Careers and Enterprise Company has recently launched a request for bids from organisations to deliver its National Mentoring Campaign at a regional level. The objective is to grow the number of high-quality, employer-led mentoring relationships across England, ensuring that each year 25,000 young people at risk of disengagement in the run-up to their GCSEs have a mentor in place by 2020.

Local enterprise partnerships have been asked to provide a list of priorities for mentoring in schools in the region, to help organisations ensure their bid is sufficiently regionalised.

Michelle Rainbow, Skills Programme Manager at the North East LEP, gives her guidance on the priorities:

To ensure the continued economic growth of the North East region, developing young people with appropriate skills, attitudes, behaviours and qualifications is a key focus of our Strategic Economic Plan (SEP).

We are leading innovative initiatives that support schools, teachers , students and business to bridge the gap between education and the world of work, helping to shape a more ‘joined-up’ and collaborative approach to business engagement in education.

The North is LEP is leading the ‘Career Benchmarks’ national pilot, testing the implementation of the eight benchmarks of ‘Good Career Guidance’ outlined by the Gatsby Foundation. Two benchmarks focus on the important role of employers – specifically, providing the framework to inspire students towards further study, enable them to make informed decisions about career choices and help them to understand enough about the world of work to know what skills they need to develop to succeed in it. This work is important to social mobility in the North East because it helps open students’ eyes to careers they may not have considered. The eight benchmarks provide schools and colleges with a comprehensive structure as to what makes a good, effective and meaningful programme. One of the ‘key’ characteristics of the Gatsby Good Careers Guide is that to ‘fully’ achieve each of the eight benchmarks ‘all and every’ student across Key Stages 3, 4 and 5 should be actively involved and benefit from that involvement.

The Careers and Enterprise Company’s Enterprise Adviser Network initiative provides schools with volunteers drawn from businesses who will work directly with the school’s leadership team to develop effective employer engagement plans which focus on supporting schools with Benchmarks five and six.

The National Mentoring Campaign through the Careers and Enterprise Company should create positive human connections that empower and motivate both the business mentor and mentee. Young people with mentors, especially those who are at risk of disengagement, have more positive visions of themselves and their futures, and achieve more positive outcomes in schools, work and life.

In the North East, we believe business mentoring can be designed in such a way to help deliver the SEP and would expect potential mentoring programmes to align with our regional priorities, adopt and support the implementation of the career benchmarks by clearly demonstrating how the potential programme will contribute to supporting particular groups of students within the ‘all and every’ agenda. It is important that any mentoring programme complements and extends (rather than duplicates) any existing provision in the region and that any programme is clearly focused to address identified needs. The programme must also clearly demonstrate how businesses will be identified, approached and engaged in the region and how this work will support the very successful Enterprise Adviser initiative – ensuring businesses are supported to deliver high quality, focused and impactful work with young people.

If your organisation is interested in bidding for funding for the Mentoring campaign, please download the following documents:

To contact Michelle for more information, call 0191 338 7439 or email [email protected]

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The North East Growth Hub provides support and access to over 300 business finance providers

Businesses in the North East LEP area now have access to specialist hands on support to access the most appropriate types of finance required to fuel their growth.

Local businesses who are seeking to invest in their growth can access free specialist support through the North East Growth Hub to identify, compare and apply for all types of business finance. The service is impartial and objective and helps businesses to quickly, simply and transparently review over 300 business finance providers who collectively offer thousands of products covering every type of business lending from asset finance to growth finance as well as every type of secured and unsecured business financing.

Through this service, the North East Growth Hub, working alongside access to finance specialists Rangewell will help local businesses of all types and sizes to access every type of business lender in the UK including high street banks, challenger banks, specialist and boutique lenders, as well as online and alternative finance providers.

Luke Kovic, Head of Access to Finance for the North East region at Rangewell said: “Rangewell work with all types and sizes of business and we know only too well how often businesses struggle to access finance even though there are many specialist lenders out there who would be willing to provide them with appropriate and sensibly priced finance. Rangewell pride ourselves on offering an independent, in depth and in-person service to help North East businesses access finance in a simple and transparent manner allowing them to focus on doing what they do best – growing their business and supporting the local community”.

Colin Bell, Business Growth Director, North East LEP added: “Accessing finance is essential for many growing businesses, yet with so many options it is difficult for businesses to identify the right solutions for them. The North East Growth Hub now provides impartial and objective support to access over 23,000 financial products which makes it easier for businesses to identify the most competitive products and the Rangewell platform and one-to-one support provided should have a significant impact on the number of businesses successfully accessing finance’’.

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Projects shortlisted for Local Growth Fund support

Twelve projects have been shortlisted, following a call for projects seeking support from the Local Growth Fund which closed in April.

More than 50 applications were received in total, which were all appraised by the North East LEP Board. The projects which have been selected to progress to the next stage will all go through thorough due diligence before any funding is finalised.

The 12 shortlisted projects are:

• Beacon of Light – World of Work and Education (Foundation of Light)
• Eagles Arena (skills) (Eagles Community Arena Ltd)
• Northern Centre for Emerging Technologies (Gateshead Council)
• East Sleekburn Enterprise Zone site (Arch Group)
• Medicines manufacturing and medical technology innovation infrastructure (CPI)
• Explorer grow on work space – NETPark (Durham County Council)
• Auckland Castle Welcome (Durham County Council)
• Cowpen Road, Blyth (Northumberland County Council)
• Smart @ Pendower Hall (Tier One Capital)
• Durham City Incubator (Durham County Council)
• Phase II, Intersect 19, Tyne Tunnel Trading Estate (North Shields – UK Land Estates)
• Monkton South Business Park (South Tyneside – Hellens Development)

The North East LEP’s Local Growth Fund capital programme forms a key element of the North East Growth Deal negotiated and agreed with Government in July 2014. It is enabling the North East LEP and its partners to take forward ambitious growth measures to achieve the objectives set out in the Strategic Economic Plan (SEP).

Find out more about the Local Growth Fund.

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North East LEP seeking Government assurances on EU structural funding

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is seeking reassurance that European (EU) funded projects already signed off by Government will continue to be delivered.

To date, the North East LEP area has £89.5million of its £437million EU structural funding committed to projects for the 2014-2020 period.

A further £104.5million worth of projects were put forward to Government for approval in advance of the Referendum.

Collectively these projects will support over 7,400 businesses across the North East LEP area, which covers Durham, Northumberland and Tyne and Wear, driving growth and job creation.

The funding will also support almost 30,000 local people into employment and provide those in employment with the skills they need to progress in work.

Chair of the North East LEP Andrew Hodgson said: “We are hopeful that these projects will be honoured by Government and deliver important support to businesses and local people before Brexit happens.

“It is important to realise we will not be immediately losing the opportunities that EU funding has historically brought to the North East.

“Millions of pounds of projects are still likely to go ahead, bringing new jobs and closing the skills gap in the North East. The truth is that we just don’t know yet if or when we will see changes.

“EU funding has hugely benefitted the North East over the last few decades and we are lobbying Government for clarity and seeking assurances that any potential future funding gap will be filled. We urge the Government to provide this guidance quickly to ensure opportunities to create jobs and growth are not lost.”

There is no formal Government guidance available currently following the EU Referendum result on the amount of European funding that will be available in the future for North East businesses and organisations beyond the projects already approved.

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Brexit: What are the options?

In the run up to the EU Referendum Neil Warwick, from Square One Law, the leading EU lawyer in the region, produced two guides which illustrated the legal processes that a Remain or Brexit vote would kick start. In the first week of the guides being in the public domain the Square One Law website received 158,000 hits on its news pages. Its Twitter feed was also constantly being updated with people sharing and commenting positively on the guides as far afield as the USA and Asia.

So what happens now? – Neil Warwick explains the legal process.

Absolutely nothing to start with, the Referendum has no legal force so the Government then has to act and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union requires the UK to serve notice on the European Council to tell them we no longer want to be a member. That will trigger a two year negotiation period where the other 27 member states work out what terms they want to offer us. We also have an unstable political situation and it will be the next Prime Minister who has to serve the Article 50 notice to start the process.

What are the existing legal options to leave the EU?

What is important to say is that the models focus on what the law currently says and I would stress that this is what is entrenched in the law at the minute. There may be several other options if we changed the law, but it’s important that we deal with the facts rather than speculation.

There are four legal options currently available for the UK to follow.

    1. Join the EEA (the so-called ‘Norway Model’):

If we follow exactly the same pattern as Norway we would still be contributing to the EU budget. It wouldn’t be at the level that we are now but equally the rebate that we get would be reduced, so there would still be quite a significant contribution to the EU budget.

At the last analysis, Norway was still bound by 93% of EU laws, including the ability of free movement of people so the huge difference for the UK would be that we would have no say in shaping these laws but may be bound by future laws that the EU introduces.

    2. Join EFTA (the so-called ‘Swiss model’):

This model is very similar to joining the EEA. Switzerland does currently contribute to the EU budget and it has agreed to be bound by the laws, although it’s interesting to note that this arrangement took about 10 years to implement through multiple treaties. Switzerland also allows for free movement of people and again, it has no say in shaping EU laws.

    3. A Bilateral Treaty (sometimes referred to as the ‘Canadian or Turkish model’):

This is an interesting case because I’ve had lots of feedback on social media stating that obviously Canada and Turkey don’t have free movement of workers. That’s not what our diagram was intended to say. The probability is that as a country we would still have to contribute to the EU budget if we decide to take this option and would have to agree to be bound by certain laws, particularly competition law.

I think that the likelihood for the UK is that under this model we would also have to have some form of freedom of workers. In my opinion I don’t think it would be possible for us to ask for three of the four freedoms and refuse the fourth one which is very, very important to the EU.

    4. The World Trade Organisation model:

This would see the UK disband its membership with the EU. We wouldn’t have to contribute to the budget and we could shape free movement of workers, but there are certain trade tariffs that could be imposed automatically. At the front end of implementation it is likely that there would probably be a lot of clarity needed in the public domain for people to understand exactly what the cost of importing and exporting goods would be.

It has been suggested by some people that the trade tariffs that would be imposed in the World Trade Organisation Model would actually be somewhat similar to the current cost of being part of the EU, but in reality this would be open to negotiation. Each member of the World Trade Organisation can adjust and negotiate tariffs but it would be done bi-laterally with treaties from individual countries. So it would be possible but is quite an extensive exercise to undertake.

Timescales

The decision regarding which model to adopt will be one that isn’t made quickly and is likely to be played out in the public arena. It is highly unlikely that the UK will leave the EU before the Autumn of 2018 at the earliest. Ironically the guide, which was produced to help with the Referendum, is now being used to explain in simple terms what Brexit will actually mean for us all.

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Your views on the North East’s next step forward

Richard Baker, Head of Strategy and Policy at the North East LEP, Invites comments on the refresh of the North East Strategic Economic Plan (SEP) through the publication of an engagement paper and opportunity to comment online.

Today marks an exciting moment in our ongoing refresh of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s Strategic Economic Plan (SEP).

We are seeking comments on the work we are coordinating with the North East Combined Authority to refresh our SEP.

We have already published our economic analysis paper, which reviews the current position of the North East economy, and a progress review, that details the delivery of the SEP priorities between March 2014 and March 2016.

We can now share with you with our engagement paper, which summarises the economic analysis and progress review, and also poses key questions for discussion and feedback, including your thoughts on the potential impact of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union and the prospect of a devolution deal.

To make it easier for people to contribute, we have published our questions via Survey Monkey so responses can be made online. Your feedback is key to shaping the refreshed SEP and I hope colleagues across the North East LEP region will contribute their thoughts and ideas.

You can access the survey here. THIS SURVEY IS NOW CLOSED

Your feedback will help shape our refreshed vision for the North East. This is your opportunity to help us reach the ambitious target of creating an extra 100,000 more and better jobs by 2024.

Thank you in advance.

Richard Baker
Head of Strategy and Policy
North East Local Enterprise Partnership
[email protected]