£9m development programme for high-growth start-ups in southwest England

29 July 2009

Two major new programmes worth nearly £9 million have been launched to support the development of high-growth-potential businesses in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly over the next three years.

The programmes, which will be managed by Oxford Innovation, aim to grow businesses in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. Just over £8m of funding has come through the ERDF (European Regional Development Fund) Convergence programme, with a further £900,000 from the South West Regional Development Agency.

Oxford Innovation manages a network of innovation centres across the UK that provide a supportive environment for over 300 high-growth start-ups as well as three investment networks that help companies to raise funding.

Oxford Innovation’s team of advisory and coaching staff based across the region will provide focused support to potential entrepreneurs, the founders of high-growth-potential start-ups and established businesses with unrealised potential. The objective is to create new high-value-added businesses and help existing companies to expand, thereby generating new jobs for the region.

Managers of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will be able to access practical coaching and mentoring assistance delivered by experienced coaches who have worked at board level in SMEs and overcome a range of challenges to expand their businesses. The coaching assistance is free and confidential.

The Starting a High Growth Business programme will assist potential entrepreneurs to start up businesses as well as helping entrepreneurs in start-up firms to develop their businesses. They will get practical, hands-on help with matters ranging from creating or developing a business plan, identifying new markets and developing new products and services to raising funding and building a team. There will be a particular focus on Camborne, Pool, Redruth, St Austell and the Clay Country (an area in Cornwall blighted by derelict clay mines).

Oxford Innovation’s team has established its offices at The Old Chapel, Green Bottom, near Truro to serve as a central contact point for companies wishing to access advice and assistance. Its operations are run to the highest environmental standards reflecting the theme of environmental sustainability that underpins the programmes.

Thelma Sorensen, chair of Cornwall Business Partnership which aims to have one voice for business in Cornwall, said: “Much of our ERDF Convergence investment is focussing on economic ambition — people wanting to expand their businesses or to start successful businesses. These packages will support exactly those aims.”

Stephen Bohane, Head of Business Development for the South West RDA in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, said: “This is a significant investment from the RDA and Convergence in unlocking business potential in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. It will support our most dynamic businesses and entrepreneurs to help them grow and prosper, creating quality jobs and boosting the economy.”

At a consultation meeting held recently in Truro with key stakeholder organisations, Dr Treve Willis, Oxford Innovation’s Project Director for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, said: “The region has a significant industrial heritage and a tradition of self-reliance while the quality of the environment here is renowned – these strengths, combined with mobile ways of working which provide more flexibility for business locations, now provide a distinct competitive advantage.

“We want to build on the region’s strengths and work closely with local and regional partners, as well as connecting entrepreneurs into relevant contacts and networks beyond the region, so that we can help generate many new businesses, some of whom will grow into large companies — the future leading lights of business communities in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.

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