The Regional Growth Fund: funding available

Deadline approaching. Businesses have until June 13 2012 to apply for £1m-plus of the latest tranche of £2.4bn fund

The third round of bidding for a slice of the £2.4bn Regional Growth Fund will close on June 13 2012 and is available to businesses seeking grants, loans or loan guarantees for projects worth £1m or more. Read on to find out whether your business is eligible.
What is it?

Launched in 2011 by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the RGF was originally scheduled to run until 2014, but now it has been extended by a further year. Its central aim is to revitalise economically deprived areas, create additional jobs, and encourage small businesses which can’t secure finance by other means.

The project has been broken down into several rounds of bidding; two rounds are already complete. Bidders can submit projects, packages of projects, or programmes – rafts of initiatives with overarching economic strategies behind them.

How is it broken down?

The government allocated the first £450m of funding to 50 bids on April 12 2011. A further £950m of funding was allocated to 126 bids in the autumn of 2011, following the second round of bidding.

A third round of bidding is open and companies must submit their bids to rgfround3applications@bis.gsi.gov.uk by the closing date of noon on Wednesday June 13, 2012. Documents on the Business Innovation and Skills website offers more guidance.

Who is in charge of the scheme?

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) hitherto administers the Regional Growth Fund on a day-to-day basis. If you choose to apply for funding, you’ll have to apply via the BIS website.

Each application is reviewed by an Independent Advisory Panel of business leaders and chaired by Lord Heseltine. The Independent Advisory Panel will send its recommendations to a Ministerial Panel, led by deputy prime minister Nick Clegg, which makes a final decision.

How do I qualify?

To qualify for RGF funding, you need to demonstrate that your project:

  • Will stimulate additional sustainable private sector growth;
  • Will provide a new source of private sector employment in areas currently dependent on the public sector;
  • Depends on Regional Growth Fund funding – i.e. it cannot secure the necessary funding by other means;
  • Offers genuine value for money;
  • Meets all qualifying criteria for state aid.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that your project must be worth at least £1m; small-scale ideas won’t succeed. That said, you can find out about access to grant funding and loans for smaller businesses via the Regional Growth Fund on the Business Innovation & Skills (BIS) website.

Which industries are most likely to receive funding?

In the first and second rounds of funding, manufacturing enjoyed particular success. However there is no preconceived focus on particular industries or sectors; indeed the list of successful applicants also includes companies from the healthcare, energy and publishing industries.

As long as your project meets the key criteria outlined above, and you can demonstrate the potential for wider economic improvement, you’ll have a strong chance of success.

What about my region?

Geographically, there are no constraints. All areas of England are eligible to bid for the Regional Growth Fund.

However, if the early signs are anything to go by, applicants in the north of England are more likely to enjoy success than their southern counterparts. In fact, nearly 70% of projects which secured bidding in round 1 were based in the north; just one successful applicant was based in the south east.

Does size matter?

Well, many of the successful applicants thus far have been bigger companies and organisations, including VisitEngland, Tyne and Wear Development Company and the Greater Manchester LEP.

However the government has made it clear that organisations of all shapes and sizes will be considered, and a number of small to medium-sized companies have already achieved success.

Can I join forces with another small business?

Yes, the terms of the Regional Growth Fund allow you to do this. BIS allows smaller firms to come together to propose individual projects, as well as packages of projects which, individually, are worth less than £1m.

Can I join forces with a public body?

Absolutely! Many of the successful bidders so far, including the LEPs, are public-private bodies.

If you do want to establish a partnership with a local public body, you’ll have to establish exactly how the project is going to work, and make this abundantly clear in your application. If your bid is accepted, you’ll need to create a clear legal entity to take responsibility for delivery.

Do I need planning permission?

If you are planning to undertake any construction work as part of your programme, the good news is that you don’t need prior planning permission.

However, the bid assessors will need to see a clear explanation of how you will proceed if planning permission is denied – if you don’t have a back-up plan, the assessors are likely to take a dim view of your proposal.

How many bids can I submit?

Providing each bid meets the £1m qualifying criteria, you can submit as many as you like. But it’s important to bear in mind the strength of competition; with so many applicants around, you’d be well advised to strive for one outstanding bid, rather than several moderate ones.

How do I find out more?

The GOV website contains further information. https://www.gov.uk/guidance/understanding-the-regional-growth-fund

 

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