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In conversation with Dr Yvonne Gale, Chief Executive of NEL Fund Managers Limited and Business Growth Board member at the North East LEP

As a newly appointed member of the Business Growth Board, how will your skills and experience support the North East LEP’s aim to increase the density of scaleups in the region?

“I have been working with scaling up local businesses my whole career, first in professional services, then running the finance teams inside several high growth local businesses, and now as CEO of NEL Fund Management who have funds specifically targeted at scaling up businesses. You could say I’m a finance for scale-ups expert – helping businesses to grow with the finance they need is what I do every day.

“I bring to the Business Growth Board the knowledge of what scaleups need so we can ensure, as a Board, we create a joined up system to empower businesses with growth potential and provide them with the wide range of ingredients they need, including finance. The more businesses with scaleup potential that are financed for deliverable business plans, the more we together increase the density of scaleups in the North East LEP region.”

How important will access to finance be for our regional economic recovery as a result of the coronavirus pandemic?

“Economically we are a long way both physically and culturally from City of London approaches to finance, but we don’t want any business to suffer for the lack of access to the right finance. Like most imbalances, the coronavirus pandemic has made more pronounced the existing disconnects.

“For years I’ve been advocating that accessing finance from a computer portal or call centre is fantastic until there’s a problem. An example is how many local businesses struggled to get through to their finance providers when they desperately needed to talk because they didn’t have a person-to-person relationship.

“Being able to access finance is about knowing where to go and who to talk to as much as it’s about the amounts involved and the level of cash. Central government created some fantastic interventions but these were for the heat of the emergency and not designed to be permanent or perfect. The recovery will take time and access to finance is likely to be a problem both in who will put up the finance in uncertain times, and does that finance fit the recovery, as every business will be different. As a Board, we need to ensure there is finance available that fills in any gaps over the medium to long term for regional businesses to deliver their potential.”

How will a recession further impact the North East, and what can businesses do to survive?

“I advocate three actions. First, good cashflow planning helps every business owner make informed decisions. As a chartered accountant, I would always advocate spending time on a good long range forecast, but almost anything is better than knee jerk reactions based on today’s bank account balance.

“Second, relationships matter when times are tough. The current situation presents an opportunity to forge deeper relationships with customers and suppliers. Now more than ever, people are logging who helps and who doesn’t. This creates opportunities for developing your business with new and existing partners.

“Third, the business world is in a state of flux and ‘fortune favours the brave’. It is difficult for complex organisations to be nimble but local businesses don’t need to wait for permission from head office. Now is the moment to think big and bold, striding out while others are busy elsewhere.”

Many small businesses are struggling as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. What support is available for them in the North East?

“There is an immense amount of support available in the North East, all of which have rapidly adapted so they can help now. The list is so long that it’s not possible to cover it in a blog. My best suggestion is to talk to people; be that your existing trusted advisors as there may be many ways they can help that you’ve never needed to ask about.

“If you want to widen your pool of who can help, consult the North East Growth Hub or make an appointment to talk to the Growth Hub Connectors. The Growth Hub is a comprehensive portal of the support available in the region.

“Of course if you need information on finance, I’m happy to help. You can reach me by emailing [email protected].”

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Funding available for business Incubator space

The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP) is inviting applications from Incubator projects which match the strategic aspirations set out in the Strategic Economic Plan and the innovation programme with significant potential to make a demonstrable contribution to the Incubator network within the region.

Projects must demonstrate clear links to the Strategic Economic Plan and be able to provide a clear and coherent programme of business incubation support.

We anticipate that the North East LEP will be asked to fund around 50% of the capital costs of the (re)development incubator space (subject to State Aid). The maximum grant available will normally be up to a maximum of £500,000 however in exceptional circumstances, where there is clear demand and a strategically significant project is put forward a higher level of funding may be awarded.

Prospective applicants, who can be from public, private or voluntary sector, are encourage in the first instance to read the Project Call Information document which can be found along with other supporting information on our funding page.

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Funding available for early stage Innovation projects

The North East is already home to excellent innovation assets supporting key sectors and facilitating open-innovation across our themes; but we know there are gaps and areas where we could do more. The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP) is therefore inviting bids from early stage innovation projects to come forward for development stage funding that will help to prepare Business Cases that can help deliver the ambition set out in our Strategic Economic Plan.

Projects that are able to demonstrate clear links to the SEP and key Government policy (such as the Industrial Strategy), and are anticipated to be of large scale and/or significant impact in key sectors are encouraged to come forward. Funding available through this call is to support the costs of getting projects ready to produce a high-quality business case for public or private investment. This could include a HM Treasury Compliant, Five-Point Business Case – the funds are not for projects at implementation/build stage.

We anticipate that the North East LEP will be asked to fund around 50% of the costs of the development of a project (subject to State Aid) up to a maximum of £100,000.

Prospective applicants, who can be from public, private or voluntary sector, are encouraged in the first instance to read the Project Call Information along with other supporting information on our funding page. Please note this call complements the broader Innovation Project Pipeline process but is not limited to projects already prioritised. If you have a project idea you would like us to consider for the pipeline please get in touch.

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Four new European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) calls open

Four new European Regional Development Fund opportunities have opened in the North East LEP area.

PA1 – Promoting Research and Innovation

PA3 – SME Support – Enhancing the Competitiveness of Small and Medium Sized Enterprises

PA4 – Supporting the shift towards a Low Carbon Economy in all Sectors

PA5 – Promoting climate change adaptation, risk prevention and management.

An information event is being held on 11 July 2019. Anyone interested in learning more about the opportunities above and the support available during the application process, can register to attend this event here.


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North East LEP’s Local Growth Fund reaches half way milestone

More than half of the projects supported through the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s Local Growth Fund have reached completion, marking a major milestone for the £270m fund.

Providing funding to major capital projects in all seven local authority areas, the Local Growth Fund is helping to create jobs, boost the economy and improve the quality of life for people living and working in North East England.

A promotional film – produced by the North East LEP – has been released to celebrate the Local Growth Fund’s halfway milestone. 

Andrew Hodgson, Chair of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “More than 50 individual projects have received funding through the Local Growth Fund ranging from major infrastructure projects like The International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP) in Sunderland and South Tyneside to transformative transport schemes, including the A1058 Coast Road corridor in North Tyneside.

“Funding was awarded to projects that helped achieve the objectives set of out in the region’s Strategic Economic Plan, which aims to support economic growth, improve productivity and increase the number of people employed in high quality jobs.

“All the projects make the North East a better place to live and work, and the improvements will be felt for generations to come. It’s not just about improving our economy, it’s also about improving quality of life for everyone that lives here.”

Minister for the Northern Powerhouse and Local Growth, Jake Berry MP said: “We are investing in the future of communities across the Northern Powerhouse and the whole country through the Local Growth Fund. The projects already delivered by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership with their share of the fund are changing lives by building the infrastructure, skills, jobs and confidence people need to thrive.

“Our modern Industrial Strategy is backing businesses to create high-paid, highly-skilled jobs in every part of the UK and I’m inspired by what has been achieved in the North East so far.

“I look forward to seeing how people across the North East continue to build on local strengths and embrace opportunities for a prosperous future with support from the Government.”

Heidi Mottram, CEO of Northumbrian Water and Vice Chair of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “When the Local Growth Fund from central government was put into place, we already had our Strategic Economic Plan in place so we hit the ground running.

“The things we believed we needed to invest in included infrastructure and improving transport; but the most important thing was to make sure the workforce here in the North East had the skills for the more and better jobs we’re creating.”

The new video profiles many of the projects supported through the Local Growth Fund, including the creation of a new Centre for Enterprise & Innovation, Hope Street Xchange in Sunderland, Europe’s first dedicated centre for emerging technology, PROTO in Gateshead, and the creation of a new Metro/bus interchange in South Shields town centre and a new learning centre for Tyne and Wear Metro workers. It also features interviews with key people leading each project.

To receive funding through the Local Growth Fund, projects had to demonstrate they could drive innovation and improve support for businesses; support economic inclusion and help develop skills infrastructure; or enhance strategic transport sites and public transport infrastructure.

Major infrastructure projects aimed at creating more and better jobs and further strengthening the North East’s key sectors include The Biosphere at Newcastle Helix, CPI’s National Formulation Centre at NETPark in County Durham, and Vaux in Sunderland’s Central Business District.

Dr. Graeme Cruickshank, Director of Formulation at CPI, said: “The investment in creating these world-class facilities is vital in enabling the North East to retain its core strength in chemistry and formulating sciences, ensuring this expertise is available to small and large companies and academic groups across the UK.

“This support has facilitated us to create new jobs at CPI’s National Formulation Centre and National Healthcare Photonics Centre, both at NETPark, as well as enabling us to directly support the innovation efforts of partners in this region and beyond.”

John Seager, Chief Executive of Siglion, the development partnership leading the Vaux regeneration project, said: “Regeneration projects in difficult markets are all about kick starting investment activity. The LGF funding for Phase 1 at VAUX has provided the essential seeds from which we can grow the ideal environment to attract private sector investment, both financial and in jobs – it’s absolutely transformational to the local economy”

Major road improvement schemes are continuing to take place across the region thanks to investment from the Local Growth Fund. Significant transport projects including the A1056 Weetslade Corridor, A19 and the Arches junction in South Shields will improve traffic flow, provide greater accessibility for pedestrians and cyclists, and support more people to use public transport.

The Local Growth Fund has also helped support sustainable transport projects across the North East in a bid to reduce congestion and protect the environment. Projects have included cycle schemes in Newcastle, Gateshead, Sunderland, Durham, South Tyneside and North Tyneside, as well as the refurbishment of Central Station Metro in Newcastle.

John Fenwick, Director of Finance and Resources at Nexus, said: “We have invested in new facilities for public transport users with support from the Local Growth Fund. This has included the development of a new transport interchange in South Shields and the modernisation of Central station on the Tyne and Wear Metro, in Newcastle.

“The LGF support has also enabled Nexus to invest in its workforce, with the creation of a new learning centre to meet all of our training needs. Construction of this training facility in South Shields town centre is well underway.”

Rural communities across the North East have benefitted from the Local Growth Fund with projects including East Durham College’s Houghall Campus and The Sill: National Landscape Discovery Centre in Northumberland National Park receiving investment to support the North East’s rural economy and thriving tourism sector.

Tony Gates, Chief Executive of Northumberland National Park Authority, said: “The North East has a unique identity, borne from a strong sense of pride and place, which is driven by the people that live, work and visit here.

“Our rural areas, with their rich natural resources, diverse economies, vibrant communities and close urban links, bring great value to the region. The visitor economy is one of our fastest growing sectors and one with the potential to significantly boost our economy for generations to come and create new jobs.

“Through its support for The Sill, the Local Growth Fund has brought new employment opportunities and helped to secure significant public and private investment in one of the most rural parts of the region. Attracting more than 150,000 visitors per year, The Sill has supported the growth of a number of local businesses and is well on its way to bringing a further £2.5m per year to this rural part of Northumberland.”

Projects that support local communities and improve skills have also received funding from the Local Growth Fund. The new 2,500-seater Newcastle Eagles Community Arena in Elswick provides a new community venue for sports participation, vocational training, and health & wellbeing.

Paul Blake, Managing Director of Newcastle Eagles said: “The Local Growth Fund was a pivotal building block in our development, which even in our early stages has seen significant job growth, jobs safeguarded for the long term and a number of new apprenticeships launched across several sectors.

“Our partnership with Newcastle College extends the educational reach in the building even further. A month into opening we are now building local networks in the West End to cement our sporting, health and wellbeing offer too.”

For information on all the projects supported by the Local Growth Fund, visit www.nelep.co.uk/funding

The Local Growth Fund film can be viewed on the North East LEP website, https://www.nelep.co.uk/funding/local-growth-funding.

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In conversation with Helen Golightly – New Chief Executive sought for North East Fund

European Regional Development Funding

In addition to her role as Chief Executive of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, Helen Golightly also acts as Chair of the North East Fund Ltd Board. Here, she talks us through what the Board will be looking for as they seek to recruit a new Chief Executive for the Fund.

“We’re looking for a Chief Executive to oversee the North East Fund which is a £120 million investment programme available to SMEs across Durham, Northumberland and Tyne and Wear. Its aim is to provide impactful support to SME’s, facilitating sustainable economic growth across the region.

The Fund encompasses five funds – each with a different investment focus to suit the needs of SMEs depending on the sector in which they operate and where they sit on the growth curve. The post holder will be accountable to the Board and to external stakeholders for the successful delivery of the investment programme.

We’re looking for someone who is energetic and results focused with a demonstrable track record in this field. In particular, we’re keen to hear from applicants with extensive knowledge and experience of the UK early stage investment market, with a strong awareness of, and empathy for, the needs of SME’s.”

The post is located in Newcastle upon Tyne and will work across the North East region.

The salary for this position is circa £125K plus package. Read the full Job Description.

Further details regarding the Fund can be found at northeastfund.org

If applying, please send a CV and covering letter by email to [email protected] The closing date for receipt of CVs is Friday 11 January 2019  and interviews are expected to be held on 29 January 2019

If you have any further questions about this article, please do not hesitate to contact us directly.




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North East region responds to National Infrastructure Assessment

Representatives from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, all seven local authorities and the region’s business community came together today (13 November) to discuss the future of infrastructure in the UK as part of a visit by the National Infrastructure Commission.

The organisation, which provides expert, impartial advice to government on infrastructure – is currently touring the country to discuss its recently published National Infrastructure Assessment.  The first of its kind for the UK, it analyses the UK’s long-term economic infrastructure needs, outlines a strategic vision over the next 30 years and sets out recommendations on how the identified needs should be met.

Published once a parliament, today’s event was an opportunity for the North East to provide feedback on the assessment and discuss how the recommendations will support economic prosperity in the region.

Organised by the North East LEP, attendees met with Sir John Armitt, Chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission, and Bridget Rosewell OBE, Commissioner at the National Infrastructure Commission.

Andrew Hodgson, Chair of the North East LEP said: “It’s important for us as a region to plan for the long-term recommendations in the National Infrastructure Assessment and respond to the opportunities and challenges it raises. Having the chance to discuss its impact on the North East and how it fits with our Strategic Economic Plan has been a fantastic opportunity.

“We’re keen to identify areas where the North East can take forward work to shape areas like digital connectivity, management of flooding and new transport investments, and how we can ensure the region benefits from future infrastructure funding.

“We were able to bring together key representatives from the public and private sector to learn more about the Assessment and provide feedback to Sir John and his colleagues about the region’s response to it.

“It’s great to see the National Infrastructure Commission consulting the North East on issues that will have a significant impact our region and we look forward to working with them to establish a future co-operative approach.”

The National Infrastructure Assessment puts forward a series of recommendations on six key areas; building a digital society, low cost and low carbon energy, revolutionising road transport, transport and housing for thriving city regions, reducing the risks of drought and flooding, and choosing and designing infrastructure. Government has 12 months to formally respond to the Assessment.

Sir John Armitt CBE, Chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission, said: “From the redevelopment of the Gateshead Quays to South Shields’ new transport interchange, it’s clear that councils and businesses across the North East are keeping a strong focus on improving local infrastructure for the benefit of residents.

“Our National Infrastructure Assessment – a first for the UK – has strong recommendations which, if adopted, could make a real difference for the region. In particular, our call for a truly national charging network for electric vehicles would support take-up across the country, as well as here at the home of the Nissan Leaf.

“This, and our proposals for devolving more transport funding to cities rolling out full-fibre broadband and providing more energy from low-carbon sources, would benefit the region and the country as a whole, and I hope local leaders will make the case to ministers to make them a reality.”

Held at the offices of Ward Hadaway in Newcastle, the roundtable discussion explored the opportunities and challenges of the Assessment for the region and how the North East can help take them forward.

Organisations representing the region included; the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, Nexus, Environment Agency, Newcastle International Airport, North East Combined Authority (NECA), the region’s local authorities and the newly formed North of Tyne Combined Authority.

Colin Hewitt, Partner and Head of the Commercial team at Ward Hadaway, said: “We are delighted to host this roundtable discussion. It will give us a chance to talk about the types of infrastructure the UK should be investing in and also establish a new way to think about infrastructure closer to home, with a focus on how it affects our quality of life and the success of the North East economy.”

For more information about the National Infrastructure Commission and to read the National Infrastructure Assessment, visit www.nic.org.uk.

If you have any further questions about this article, please do not hesitate to contact us directly.

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The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) has opened new calls for projects worth more than £72.3m across the North East LEP area.

European Regional Development Funding

The North East LEP is holding a free information event to give local partners more details on the focus of the newly opened calls, what areas they will address and how a potential application for funding should be approached.

When: 17 October 2018, 9am (for 9:30 start) – 12.00noon    
Where: St James Park, Newcastle

Register for this event by 16 October 2017. Please note that places at the event will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.

Find out more about the calls on our Funding page.

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Funding Opportunities with the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA)

The ESFA Transition Programme has launched four specifications for the North East LEP area, supporting four Investment Priorities:




IP 1.1:  Skills Support for the Unemployed

IP 1.2: Not in Employment, Education or Training (NEET) (15-24)

IP 1.4: Community Grants

IP 2.1: Skills Support for the Workforce

Further details can be found here. Full specifications can be found on Bravo; organisations not already registered on Bravo must do so before accessing the documents.

The closing date for applications is 17 SEPTEMBER 2018

Contact details of your local Technical Support Team can be found here.