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North East LEP joins public in safeguarding 120 local businesses through Crowdfunder campaign

Members of the public, together with the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), have helped safeguard 120 businesses and protect over 350 jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.

In May of this year, the North East LEP announced a partnership with Crowdfunder UK, which meant it would award up to £5,000 in match funding to crowdfund campaigns launched by small businesses in the North East LEP area.  The fund was set up in partnership with Crowdfunder UK to provide additional support to businesses, charities, social enterprises and sole traders unable to access government funding, and those forced to close or struggling to trade because of lockdown restrictions.

To date, the North East LEP has awarded £400,000 through the scheme, in addition to the £495,000 raised by almost 10,000 generous members of the public who have supported local businesses’ appeals through the Crowdfund North East LEP campaign.

Helen Golightly, Chief Executive of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), said: “Every business in every sector of industry has been impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s some of our region’s smaller businesses and enterprises that have struggled the most – particularly those that haven’t been able to adapt as quickly as others, leaving them vulnerable to redundancies and closure.

“The generosity and support from members of the public through crowdfund campaigns has been a lifeline for many small businesses, and as part of our package of support for North East businesses during the coronavirus crisis we wanted to ensure more vital funding reached these organisations.

“Through Crowdfund North East LEP on Crowdfunder UK’s website, we’ve been able to support businesses in every part of our region, and across a range of sectors; including tourism, sports, hospitality, the arts, music, and charities.”

Recipients include vegan and vegetarian café, Shoe Tree Café, in Heaton, Newcastle. The match funding from the North East LEP helped the owners diversify the business so it could continue to trade safely during the pandemic.

Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team used Crowdfund North East LEP to ensure the voluntary emergency service could remain on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, without cutting costs.

And Heatherslaw Light Railway Company, a narrow-gauge steam railway tourist attraction based in North Northumberland, used the funds raised through the crowdfund campaign to ensure the family business could reopen after lockdown.

Support is still available for small businesses in the North East LEP area through Crowdfund North East LEP until the end of December 2020. More information about the scheme, including how to apply, is available here.

Rob Love, CEO, Crowdfunder said: “Businesses have already faced an extremely challenging time during the first lockdown. We have also seen incredible resilience: small businesses have adapted and pivoted their offerings in order to keep trading. By crowdfunding and gaining match-funding from the LEP they can maintain cash flow and stay connected to their customer base which is vital if they are to bounce back quickly once this is all over. The North East LEP match funding helps to take the pressure off small businesses and enables many to protect their staff and livelihoods. We are ready and able to work with any LEP or Local Authority that is able to do the same.”

Crowdfund North East LEP is just one of the ways the North East Local Enterprise Partnership has been supporting businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.

The North East LEP is the founding member of the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group, which was established at the start of the pandemic to ensure the North East has strong economic leadership that acts quickly and collaboratively to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19.

The group is made up of the North East LEP, CBI, North of Tyne and North East Combined Authorities, with the support of industry. The group recently submitted its ambitious North East Recovery and Renewal Deal to government, which asks for £2.8 billion investment to unlock half for the 100,000 more jobs required to support North East recovery quickly. Find out more about the North East COVID-19 Economic Response Group.


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North East LEP response to government’s new Peer Networks scheme

Colin Bell, Business Growth Director at the North East LEP, said: “Accessing knowledge, support and advice from peers is one of the most valuable resources for any new business.

“The £510k the North East LEP region has been awarded through government’s Peer Networks Programme will give hundreds of SMEs access to action learning sessions to help them to recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, supporting businesses’ collective action to revive sectors and areas such as town centres, and to share knowledge and best practice on what has helped them to overcome challenges and grasp opportunities.

“Working collaboratively has always been a strength of the North East business community. We can now utilise that peer support to boost our SMEs and aid our region’s economic recovery.”

For more information about the Peer Networks scheme and to register your interest, visit www.peernetworks.co.uk.

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Entrepreneurs with big ideas invited to join new business support programme

Budding entrepreneurs in the region are being given the chance to turn their notepad doodle into the next Google with support from the North East Growth Hub’s new High Potential Startups programme.

Giving would be entrepreneurs access to expert advice and support to help them create the high growth businesses of tomorrow, High Potential Startups provides the introductions and the business support needed to bring business ideas to life, bigger and better than people can alone.

Colin Bell, Business Growth Director at the North East LEP said: “High Potential Startups is all about finding new, ambitious businesses with the potential to grow fast and make a real impact on the economy.

“Scaleup business generate one third of new economic and job growth, which is why it’s so important we help North East entrepreneurs turn their ideas into viable businesses that create more and better jobs.

“In the Strategic Economic Plan we set a target to increase the density of scaleup businesses in the North East by 50% by 2024. We currently have 17% more scaleups in the region than we did in 2017 and High Potential Startups will help us deliver more of these important, fast growing growing businesses.”

As well as targeting entrepreneurs, High Potential Startups will educate businesses on the benefits that come from supporting existing staff members to launch new ventures.

Intrapreneurship allows staff to develop new business ideas that often add value to their current place of work. Organisations can use staff spin offs to improve productivity, reach new markets and adapt faster to changes in the economy.

Investing in intrepreneurship has been to shown to improve staff motivation and morale, as well as drive business growth.

Colin continued: “Speaking as someone who has launched a business, I know what a scary prospect it can be. We want people with a great business idea to know support is on hand to turn that idea into reality.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re working full time for another business or working on your idea at home in your spare time, if it has the potential to create jobs and generate £1m or more by its third year, High Potential Startups can help you test market ideas, fill knowledge and skills gaps, and find cofounders to take your business to market.”

To find out more about High Potential Startups and to apply, visit www.highpotentialstartups.co.uk.

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In conversation with Estelle Blanks, Deputy Director, Innovation SuperNetwork North East England

Innovation in the North East of England, really? Yes, really!

As an ‘outsider’ to the region, I am well aware that innovation is not the first thing that comes to mind when Newcastle or the North East of England is mentioned and unfortunately this perception is hard to shift.

Despite 20 years of living in this region and a career focused on economic development through innovation and regeneration, I still get the same intrigued and slightly cynical look as the one I got from colleagues in Sophia Antipolis, France, back in 2001 when we started discussions with the then largest European Science and Technology park about how their networks could help to support high-tech businesses from the North East.

The traditional statistical data don’t help either. In 2008, the OECD found that the North East was ‘below average’ against most key metrics (R&D expenditure or patent applications sought) and this is still the trend.

And yet, over the years and during my time at Newcastle Science City and now with the North East Innovation SuperNetwork, I have seen some tremendous examples of innovation through highly creative SMEs, leading-edge research and larger corporate open innovation practices. Some highlights have been

• Helping Arnab Basu and the team at Kromek, then Durham Scientific Crystals, to prepare for one of their first pitches at the International Venture Capital Summit in 2003/4 in Sophia Antipolis. Innovative products, a talented team and desire to expand their exposure and networks has led to the success story that it is today.

• Supporting and promoting the work of Professor Paul Watson at Newcastle University that led to the creation of the £30m National Institute for Smart Data Innovation (NISDI). Leading-edge research combined with industry and public sector partnership made this possible.

• Reading, back in 2014, in the Guardian, the Financial Times and Computer Weekly how the North of England and Newcastle had become Tech-Hubs and serious contenders to London for start-ups and highly skilled tech graduates thanks to the work of Sunderland Software City, Ignite 100, Dynamo and many others involved in supporting the growth of the digital sector in the region.

• Taking part in consultations for the first Proof of Concept and Co-investment funds and even JEREMIE 1 when we had to make a case that there would be enough innovative and investable propositions in the North East to spend all this money. According to the European Investment Bank, the £142m JEREMIE 1 funds also known as Finance for Business North East is one of the most successful in Europe! Through the return on investment from successful businesses, it has created a legacy that can now be re-invested in JEREMIE 2.

So, somehow, we are getting quite a few things right in the region when it comes to innovation. We have some real strengths and we have to work hard to leverage those assets.

From my experience, long-term vision and planning, partnership working, effective national and international networks and good communication and PR channels which promote existing innovative businesses, risk taking, novel practices and good role models will help us grow our innovation assets and our presence on the innovation map.

We have to be realistic – there is still some way to go. A couple of weeks ago I heard stories from colleagues at Generator which indicate that even our local market place does not source existing innovative solutions in the region… because they don’t know it’s there.

We need to be more visible and promote all kinds of innovation to ensure North East companies benefit from local, national and international opportunities.

This is what we are aiming to do through VentureFest North East 2016 and the Innovation Showcase.

We want to give companies the opportunity to demonstrate what they can do and expose the great innovation that is taking place here and now. Large corporate organisations, small start-ups and anything in between are welcome to take part. You don’t need to give away trade secrets and we can help you promote what you do efficiently.

Last year we showcased everything from a seaweed farm to fingerprint biometric readers and wheelchair adaptations to 3D scanning booths.

If you’ve something to share please find out more and apply here by Friday, October 7.

By Estelle Blanks, Deputy Director, Innovation SuperNetwork North East England

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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’’.

Home / Business Support

In conversation with Colin Bell, Business Growth Director at the North East LEP

For the North East to make a step change we need more businesses to scale-up. We need an entrepreneurial conveyor belt of people starting businesses; people who grow the businesses they started into micro businesses; micros businesses into small businesses and so on until they become the big businesses of tomorrow – simple!

If only life was that simple, lots of things get in the way. Some people don’t want to grow and they certainly don’t want the complication of employing people – there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Many however do hold the ambition to scale their business. They think big, have fire in their belly and want to take on the world.

Unfortunately too few realise their ambition and are left feeling frustrated. They work harder and harder but no matter how hard they try they can’t break through the ceiling and move to the next stage of growth.

So why do so many owner/managers struggle to realise the rewards for their hard work? For most the answer lies in the fact that they haven’t made the transition from working ‘in’ their business to working ‘on’ their business. No matter how hard they work, the owner/manager will only ever have limited time and energy and if they don’t let go and empower others to run the business then they are unlikely to achieve their growth ambitions. So how can they make the shift? Let’s look at what’s arguably the world’s most scalable business ever.

Love them or loathe them, McDonalds is arguably the world’s most scalable business. McDonalds serves 75 burgers every second yet in the 1940’s it was a small family restaurant. So what lead to McDonalds having over 34,000 restaurants in 119 countries?

Using lean production techniques, both Dick and Mac McDonald pioneered a highly efficient service system that not only produced food quickly but also delighted customers. The restaurant proved popular yet remained a small family restaurant for some time. So what changed?

In 1954 Ray Kroc – a milkshake salesman – visited the restaurant and was impressed with the system that the McDonalds brothers had created. Recognising the opportunity, he persuaded the brothers to franchise their restaurant concept. Rather than spend his time flipping burgers, Ray spent his time developing, documenting and refining the businesses operation and business model to enable its rapid expansion.

He dedicated his time and energy to working ‘on’ the business rather than ‘in’ the business. Ray Kroc’s decision to work on the business enabled him to develop a scalable business model through:

– Developing a scalable business model (franchising)
– Standardising systems so they can be easily replicated and ensured consistency
– Keep the number of components to a minimum with a simple menu that used common ingredients
– Develop a supply chain capable of scaling as quickly as the business
– Adopted lean production techniques to keep costs down
– Developed a consistent business operating and training system (the Hamburger University – est. 1961)

The reality is that had Ray Kroc decided to roll up his sleeves and get to work in the kitchen then McDonalds may still be a small family run restaurant. It’s therefore not just about hard work but rather dedicating the time and energy to the things that will scale your business – should you have the ambition to do so.

Colin Bell, Business Growth Director, North East LEP.
Think BIG, Think Growth Hub – www.northeastgrowthhub.co.uk