05Coordinating local and regional initiatives
The majority of England’s 900 initiatives are either local or regional (see descriptions of selected initiatives in Box 5). In a situation when there are so many initiatives at sub-national level, the likelihood of duplication is very high. A number of interviewees suggested that coordination between national and local support is far from perfect, which is largely down to a lack of any overall infrastructure for business support.
While it is understandable that local areas want to respond to their specific business issues, the risk is that the difficulty of knowing what is available at the national level leads to duplication, rather than making use of existing support provided at a national level.
Interviewees suggested that new local initiatives should only be initiated if similar services cannot be accessed through one of the national schemes and that local actors should be more focused on helping businesses navigate the existing system, instead of increasing its complexity through providing new services.
Case study 1: Black Country Reinvestment Society
The Black Country Reinvestment Society (BCRS), located at Wolverhampton University’s Science Park, was founded in 2002 to provide finance for social enterprises and SMEs in the Black Country (Dudley, Sandwell, Walsall and Wolverhampton). It now serves the entire West Midlands region and provides loans of between £10,000 and £100,000 for SMEs with a repayment period of between one to seven years.
The BCRS combines local private sector funding providers, including commercial banks, co-operative funds, corporations and individuals with funding drawn from the public sector and EU funding streams which allows for a larger finance portfolio.
Case study 2: Manchester Creative Credits
Creative Credits is a business-to-business voucher scheme initially proposed by NESTA. The vouchers worth £4,000 are issued to SMEs that can spend them on buying services from creative companies as long as they add at least £1,000. The scheme was piloted in Manchester in 2010. 75 vouchers were issued in the first round. The second round offered twice as many grants and was co-funded by NESTA, Manchester City Council and a group of local stakeholders. The scheme was massively oversubscribed; the evaluation of results has shown that the scheme generated an average of £3,430 additional sales per business by the end of the project, and 95 per cent of grant recipients said that they expected more benefits in the future. 83 per cent of project participants have said that the grant has increased their innovation capacity.3
Case study 3: Lincolnshire Business Support Network (LINBIS)
Lincolnshire Business Support Network was set up by four Lincolnshire local authorities to encourage SMEs and start-up activity in the local area, which has traditionally had low levels of entrepreneurship and innovation. The councils are working in partnership with private sector support providers to deliver one-to-one consultations to local businesses. The scheme aims to target businesses that struggle to navigate the business support system due to issues of economic deprivation, rural isolation or poor broadband coverage. The ambition of the scheme is to establish a robust and sustainable local market for business support.