New funding drive launched

Businesses and entrepreneurs from the Sheffield City Region are gearing up to be among the first to win cash for job creating initiatives from the Government's £1.4 billion Regional Growth Fund.

Discussions about local bids for funding from the initial 250 million tranche of the three year fund were underway within minutes of former Conservative Cabinet Minister Lord Heseltine launching the Fund during a visit to the region.

Lord Heseltine is chairman of an independent panel that will be recommending bids to Ministers for approval.

After touring the Advanced Manufacturing Park and lunching with members of the South Yorkshire Manufacturers Forum and private sector members of the new Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) board, he spoke to around 180 local business people and civic leaders.

He told the audience in the Advanced Manufacturing Park Technology Centre at Waverley: "The Regional Growth Fund presents an opportunity for businesses and entrepreneurs in Yorkshire to help shape their own economic future.

"I hope today's road show will inspire people to think strategically about how this fund can deliver a positive change to their local economy; creating new jobs and benefits for local people."

Lord Heseltine revealed that almost 700 applications had already been made to the fund.

Each bid must be for at least 1 million and must be matched by funding from the applicant, although Lord Heseltine said the Government was negotiating with banks in the hope they could offer smaller grants, which small and medium sized businesses could apply for.

Speaking after the meeting, Sheffield City region LEP chairman James Newman said he had been encouraged by Lord Heseltine's remarks.

"The two big things that came out were that the first phase was about jobs and projects as opposed to programmes. It is also a competition which will pit us against others for a limited pot of money," said Mr Newman.

The first round of bids has to be submitted by Friday January 21 and Mr Newman said a number of projects were being discussed which might be submitted for the first round of funding.

"There are a number of potential bids, the majority of which are, perhaps, infrastructure and development projects and a number were in our LEP submission," Mr Newman added.

The LEP plan focuses on creating economic growth and jobs by developing sectors with the greatest potential for growth, boosting skills, increasing the number of new and growing businesses, unlocking the economic potential of key development areas and improving transport links.

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