The Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership Business team (OxLEP Business) have this week issued a new report that highlights the significant impact it has had on the county’s business community, since the COVID-19 outbreak.
Entitled: ‘Supporting businesses to survive and thrive – showcasing the impact of OxLEP Business and Skills support through the COVID-19 pandemic (April 2020 – August 2021)’, the report highlights how the organisation has engaged with 2,670 businesses to-date following the emergence of Coronavirus and provided over 12,000 hours of support during the same period.
The report comes as OxLEP Business – which operates as the Growth Hub for Oxfordshire – prepares for its ‘marketplace event’, set to take place on Thursday (18 November).
The event aims to bring the county’s SME community together to find out what their peers have to offer, discover opportunities to collaborate and create vital networking leads.
Key findings from the report also show that despite the challenging circumstances – in a county with over 43,000 registered businesses, 99% of which are small and medium-sized enterprises – at least 644 of these SMEs grew by 10% or more over the last year.
The report also cites that 6,194 new businesses have been registered in Oxfordshire since January 2020.
As a renowned ‘growth engine’, pre-pandemic figures showcase the county as a leading location for small businesses to grow, innovate and scale-up, with some of the highest business survival rates nationally.
Whilst Oxfordshire is home to a resilient and well-balanced economy, the COVID-19 pandemic – alongside further challenges, such as the UK’s departure from the European Union – had unprecedented effects on the county’s business community.
The report demonstrates how the response of OxLEP Business and OxLEP Skills and their strategy – to ‘Restart, Recover, and Renew’ – responded to these challenges over the initial 16-month period, aligning with national COVID-19 business support offerings and opportunities for business funding.
Other key findings of the report include the provision of support worth £1.9m from the OxLEP Skills and OxLEP Business teams over the period from April 2020 to August 2021, alongside the safeguarding or creation of 1,267 jobs within the county over the same time period.
As part of the support referenced within the report, earlier this year it was announced that a total of 34 businesses from across Oxfordshire were set to benefit from the £2.15m Business Investment Fund – an initiative created by OxLEP and funded by the government’s Local Growth Fund – to support the economic recovery from COVID-19.
Other initiatives put in place by OxLEP Business in response to the pandemic include the Kickstart Grant Programme (funded by the European Regional Development Fund), the Peer Networks Programme and an ‘enhanced’ Growth Hub support offering.
Nigel Tipple – Chief Executive of OxLEP – said: “The range of businesses and sectors who have benefitted from the support provided by OxLEP Business and OxLEP Skills – and the success stories highlighted in this report – is excellent news for the Oxfordshire economy and this support continues to play a key role in accelerating the county’s economic recovery from the pandemic.
“This report also clearly demonstrates the resilience of the Oxfordshire business community as a whole and how we, as the Local Enterprise Partnership for the county, play a vitally important role in ensuring the provision of tailored support to businesses of all shapes and sizes, as well as securing investment and support that will benefit Oxfordshire businesses for many years to come.”