Funding for the scheme, run in partnership with the Express and Star and its sister title the Shropshire Star newspaper, is part of £54.9 million awarded by the Government’s Regional Growth Fund.
The Express and Star Green Shoots Fund was launched in May 2013 and enables companies to bid for funding to boost jobs and attract further investment.
Originally targeted at the Black Country, the extra funding will enable the scheme to be expanded to also include small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, Staffordshire and the Marches including Hereford.
Support is targeted at businesses from sectors identified by the Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEP) as having the most potential for growth and maximising impact for the local economy. These include:
• Advanced Manufacturing
• Building Technologies
• Transport Technologies including Aerospace
• Environmental Technologies
• Business services
Companies will be able to apply for funding from Green Shoots Plus of between £10,000 and £150,000 from Spring this year, providing up to 30% towards their capital investment plans.
Businesses receiving grant support will also be provided with expert mentors drawn from the University and local business community, who will be able to work with them as needed for at least 12 months to maximise the benefits of the investment and reduce the risks of failure.
Welcoming the announcement, the University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Geoff Layer said it would enable the University to make a significant difference. He said: “The University is an economic anchor and agent of regeneration and growth, working with businesses, creating jobs and shaping the future of the regional economy. This is also about the importance of our reach throughout the Black Country, Telford, Staffordshire and Herefordshire.”
Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research and External Engagement, Professor Ian Oakes, added: “The University has a strong record of supporting and nurturing regional businesses, and this latest funding will enable us to support even more companies to grow.
“During the first phase of Green Shoots we worked with 200 companies, making a real difference to jobs and the economy in the Black Country region, and we’re really looking to expanding this successful scheme to Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin, Staffordshire and the Marches.”
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who announced the funding, said: “After decades of regional economies being neglected I set about investing directly in local businesses via the Regional Growth Fund. This investment has allowed regional businesses to be more ambitious than ever before and gone a long way in creating a stronger economy.
‘A stronger economy means providing equal opportunity for everyone across the UK, rather than solely relying on the city of London to bolster UK business. The success of the RGF is proof that putting money in the hands of local businesses helps them flourish, and creates opportunities for more people to work locally.’