Manufacturing body issues business support plea after passing 1,000 jobs milestone

A business support programme that has created and safeguarded over 1,000 manufacturing jobs in the East Midlands has urged local authorities to ensure assistance is still in place under the new funding landscape.

Bosses at the Manufacturing Growth Programme (MGP), which provides grants and dedicated consultancy to SME manufacturers in the region, have warned that the potential gap between European Regional Development Funding and the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) could see businesses left without the assistance they need.

Regional director Dean Barnes believes the fragmented nature of UKSPF – where each local district will receive its own pot of money – means it will be difficult to deliver good quality support to management teams that have guided their firms through Brexit and, more recently, Covid-19.

The rallying call comes as MGP reveals its latest performance data, with £1.93m in grants delivered to 1066 East Midlands companies over the last three years.

This has leveraged £3.3m of private sector investment, helping manufacturers to enter new markets, diversify their products and services, improve efficiencies and secure vital quality accreditations.

Barnes said: “We’re about to enter one of the most exciting, but challenging times in business support where the focus will fall away from ERDF and into a new landscape where each place (it could be as small as a District Council) will be given control of what they want to invest in and how they want to shape their local investment plan.

“It is key that neighbouring councils work together to pool funding to deliver support at a regional level to ensure they get the most out of their budgets and reduce the amount of ‘business support’ noise in the marketplace.”

He added: “The UK Shared Prosperity Fund is intended to help the Government’s desire to ‘level up’, but East Midlands businesses must have a voice on what they want.

“They don’t just need grant funding, they also want advice, best practice implementation and help with long-term improvements.”

Funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and delivered by Oxford Innovation Advice, MGP was launched in 2016 to create a targeted service to support manufacturing SMEs.