Friday, January 29, 2016

News: Sheffield City Region Growth Hub launched

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A Growth Hub has been launched providing a clear model for coordinating and simplifying business support so that it joins up national, local, public and private business provisions across the Sheffield city region (SCR).

The Government is working with Local Enterprise Partnership (LEPs) across England to establish a network of private sector-led Growth Hubs connecting businesses to the right support.

The aim is to create a "world-class" business support service that is open to all businesses, whether just launching, or larger more established companies looking for help with accessing finance, skills and training, exporting or innovation.

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As part of the ambitious growth plan, the hub plans to help create 6,000 businesses by 2022 and with several key aims being to cultivate entrepreneurial activity, increase the start-up rate, and grow the Sheffield City Region.

With David Grimes as manager, the Growth Hub operates a central gateway across the City Region where the first contact is via telephone/email with a bank of skilled advisers. Specialist advisers can also be called in from the private sector, including finance experts who can advise and support on raising business finance.

The Growth Hub is set to be complimentary to local authority and other provision. Local authorities with resources may wish to undertake a "key account management" function and deliver local priorities beyond that of the Hub, as Rotherham Council currently does successfully. By delivering additional resources into the SCR, the LEP believes that the Growth Hub offers the opportunity for local authorities to do so but as other local authorities will not be in a position to invest in this way, the Hub will be designed to also work as a stand-alone product.

The Growth Hub could also commission products that are accessible to any business regardless of location, ending the postcode lottery of support in the city region.

Paul Houghton, LEP board member, chair of the Business Growth Executive Board and managing partner of Grant Thornton in Sheffield has been instrumental in bringing the Growth Hub to Sheffield. He said: "The launch of the Growth Hub marks a hugely important milestone for business support across our region. We now have specialist advisors and a range of programmes in place, all aimed at providing growth support for businesses and, critically, all of this support is designed to be of a consistent and high standard across the entire region and can be accessed through a single online gateway.

"However, we're not stopping here: over the next two years we will be extending and growing the range of business support activities as we lead the development of a world class Growth Hub."

£4.5m of existing Local Growth Fund allocation was allocated to set up the hub which is then expected to be backed by £83.5m of European funding - a European Funded Start-Up project called SCR Launchpad is in the works. £500,000 was secured to pilot the project with initial work undertaken to assess what support is already available.

SCR Growth Hub website

Images: SCR Growth Hub

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