Warwickshire highly commended in ‘Most Enterprising Place in Britain’ competition

The Warwickshire Rural Growth Network, designed to help existing businesses to grow whilst providing support for new start-ups, has received a Judges Highly Commended Award in the 2016 Enterprising Britain Awards, announced by Small Business Minister, Margot James today (24 September).

The awards celebrate local initiatives which boost business and growth. The Rural Growth Network (RGN) was designed to help existing businesses to grow as well as provide support for start-ups – with a particular focus on supporting women-led enterprises. It delivered a flexible package of support for businesses in rural areas including workshops, one-to-one mentoring, coaching, specialist advice, small business loans, grants and new business premises.

Over the last three years the RGN has supported 738 small businesses, helped 185 people to start a business and created or safeguarded more than 550 jobs in rural Warwickshire. Businesses supported include a local brewery, a luxury glamping, camper manufacturer, advanced manufacturing and engineering companies, publishing firms, Alpaca breeders, product designers and food manufacturers. It also supported a new, highly successful Rural Innovation Centre at Stoneleigh Park which was developed in partnership with LaSalle Investment Management.

The Warwickshire RGN, one of just five pilots in the country which ran from October 2012 until earlier this year, was led by Warwickshire County Council on behalf of the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP). It was funded by Defra, the EU’s Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE), Warwickshire County Council and a range of private sector partners.

Leader of Warwickshire County Council, Cllr Izzi Seccombe, said “The Rural Growth Network provided a catalyst to explore new ways of supporting businesses in rural areas, bringing together the work of a wide range of specialist organisations and partners in support of the rural economy. The legacy of this work will continue well into the future. We are delighted to have been recognised with this award which is testament to the hard work of all involved.

“The County Council is committed to continuing to invest in economic growth. We have recently worked with partners to develop and launch a major new business support programme and I would encourage any business to get in touch to find out how we can help them with our expert support and advice that is free and impartial.”

Cllr Philip Johnson, Chair of Warwickshire County Council’s Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee, said: “Warwickshire was competing against a number of strong entries from across the UK and I am delighted that the work of the County Council and partners to improve the environment for small businesses through pro-active support has been acknowledged in these national awards.”

Sean Farnell, CWLEP Board member and Partner at Burgis & Bullock Chartered Accountants, said: “One of the major aims of the CWLEP is to grow the economy of Coventry and Warwickshire and through attracting funding from the Government and the hard work of partner organisations across the region, the Rural Growth Network has directly enabled innovation and creation of employment at a wide range of businesses.

“The Rural Growth Network has been hugely effective in stimulating growth in the SME sector in our area and we congratulate everyone associated with the network for being recognised as one of the most enterprising growth projects in Britain.”

The 2016 Enterprising Britain Awards are part of the Government’s drive to increase entrepreneurial activity in the UK.

The Coventry and Warwickshire Business Support Programme is a major new support service for small and medium sized firms in Coventry and Warwickshire. It is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund with further support from Warwickshire County Council and Coventry City Council. It is delivered by the LEP Growth Hub, the County Council, City Council and a wide range of specialist delivery partners.

For more information about the Coventry and Warwickshire Business Support Programme, please contact Coventry & Warwickshire Growth Hub on Tel: 0300 60 3747.

For more details about the Enterprising Britain Awards visit: http://www.enterprisingbritainawards.co.uk

Case study – Lontra

Napton-based engineering company Lontra, the firm behind the innovative Blade Compressor®, benefited from RGN support towards the purchase of essential precision measurement equipment and investment in Lontra’s third test cell for their latest compressor technology developments – set to open up new markets for the business.

This support comes as part of Lontra’s latest site development; the exciting launch of the new state-of-the-art Technology Centre. Project support for this development also came from Innovate UK, the Royal Academy of Engineering and European Commission. These advanced testing facilities are enabling Lontra to rapidly progress future designs and deliver these advancements to new sectors which rely upon compression technology.

Steve Lindsey, CEO at Lontra, commented:

“The Warwickshire RGN has been invaluable to the recent developments at Lontra. The opening of our new Technology Centre is a significant milestone for the company and the Blade Compressor®. This new suite will take our technology to the next level and push the capabilities of our compressor to new limits, ensuring oil-free compression, energy efficiency and improved reliability. We foresee that this will enable us to develop our product for new applications, enter new markets and craft further innovations.”