A newly-released, independent report – commissioned by the Government – has underlined the positive impact and influence of growth hubs in England, supporting businesses to increase their respective turnovers and job creation.
The report – which was conducted by Technopolis and was last week published on the government website – has delivered a positive assessment of the roles of growth hubs between 2015 and 2020.
In particular, the publication has cited the support given to small and medium-sized companies, with the report stating that growth hubs have ‘a strong reputation for reliability and independence among stakeholders, partners and businesses’.
Growth hubs are a service that has been delivered by Local Enterprise Partnerships across England with OxLEP Business operating as the growth hub in Oxfordshire through the work of OxLEP.
And although the Technopolis report does not take into account the majority of business support delivered by growth hubs post-pandemic, the trends identified in it align with the reach and work of OxLEP Business as companies across the county began their own recovery following the Covid-19 outbreak.
This includes between April 2021 and March 2022, OxLEP Business providing over 6,000 hours of business support – valued at over £3,500,000 – with 388 jobs safeguarded or created through engagement with them.
OxLEP Business also provided over £2.5million-worth of grant funding direct to Oxfordshire businesses during the same period, with a total of 1,500 businesses or individuals supported and a further 1,300 businesses triaged to the right support over those 12 months.
The Technopolis report highlighted additional collective growth hub impacts over the reviewed five-year period, including:
- Growth hubs reached around 8% of all businesses in England – higher than the 2.5% ambition set by Government.
- Engagement with growth hubs boosted employment levels for supported businesses, with beneficiaries demonstrating an average 14% increase in employment one year after their first engagement and an average 22% increase in employment after five years.
- Beneficiaries reported an average financial turnover increase of £782,000 one year after the first intervention, compared to £294,000 for non-beneficiaries. The equivalent increase five years post growth hub engagement is higher, at £953,000.
The report has also put forward five recommendations to Government regarding growth hubs – they are:
- To improve communications and marketing of the growth hub network.
- To increase resourcing for the growth hubs – directly or indirectly.
- Support further development of the growth hub offer, learning from experience of the pandemic.
- Deliver consistency of the offer across growth hubs.
- Improve data collection and reduce bureaucracy.
Nigel Tipple – Chief Executive of OxLEP – said: “This report underlines the considerable and collective impact growth hubs have made for almost 10 years, built upon a unique understanding of local needs and strengths and a ‘human-centred’ approach that has been cited in the findings.
“It is this ‘human-centred’ approach that we are in particular proud of at OxLEP and OxLEP Business has consistently listened and acted upon the information provided to us by our business community, helping us to have shaped – and continue to shape – a business support programme that we want more businesses in Oxfordshire to access and benefit from.
“At a time where businesses, not just in Oxfordshire, but across the country are seeking support to help their continued recovery from the effects of Covid-19 and the ongoing financial challenges likely brought to the fore by inflation and the cost of living, the role of growth hubs – including that of OxLEP Business – has never been more critical.”
Further findings from the Technopolis report included the endorsement of growth hubs being able to simplify the business support landscape via significant stakeholder engagement and management. In addition, national and regional stakeholders who commented in the report added growth hubs had a unique understanding of local needs and strengths, where national programmes may not.
LEP Network Chair Mark Bretton, said: “This report confirms what local businesses experience on the ground – LEP growth hubs are successful and proven to work. But, as the report makes clear, two things make that happen – a strong reputation for reliability and independence and a ‘human centred’ approach.
“These are essential and advantageous, particularly in times of heightened uncertainty. That uncertainty is more acute than ever, hence the role of LEP growth hubs has never been more valuable in enabling and supporting local businesses to start up, scale up, invest and export.”
Throughout July, much of OxLEP Business’ support has and will provide guidance and support on several aspects that dictate a company’s growth journey – with free, online sessions focused on understanding B2B customers, through to mastering financial planning for small businesses.
Businesses are also encouraged to complete OxLEP Business’ support tool, which leads to the delivery of a bespoke support plan. The business support tool takes just a few moments to complete.
Nigel Tipple added: “If you are actively looking to scale-up your operations, or perhaps seek to understand what investment you might need to achieve your future ambitions, now is exactly the right time to speak with OxLEP Business and discover what support is on offer.”