OxLEP Business urges county’s SMEs looking to grow to fill out its ‘Business Support Tool’ and utilise extended ‘eScalate’ scale-up programme
The Growth Hub for businesses in Oxfordshire offers a whole host of business support, including 1:1 business expertise, workshops and events available to eligible growing businesses through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)- funded eScalate programme.
OxLEP Business is urging the county’s growing businesses to make the most of its free ‘Business Support Tool’ to find out what business support could be available to them – in particular through the European-funded eScalate programme.
The eScalate programme offers a range of business support to Oxfordshire’s small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) that are scale-ups or have scale-up potential, along with socially-minded enterprises.
Current support on offer for growing businesses and SMEs with a social purpose available through the programme includes up to 12 hours of free 1:1 support and guidance from a specialist business advisor and a vast offering of workshops. These include several webinars focused on improving ‘Social Impact Knowledge’ and various ‘Growth Power Hour’ sessions in January – which can be registered for now. Further provision available through the programme includes the ‘Investor Pitching Fast Track’ workshop – a two-day intensive learning opportunity to develop a clear understanding as to how to deliver an engaging pitch to secure equity investment, in order to grow your business.
Scale-up businesses are defined as development-stage businesses looking to grow market access, revenue, number of employees and add value through collaboration with established companies – and by showing at least one of the following growth characteristics; 20% per year by employee growth, 20% per year by turnover growth, or 20% per year in both employees and turnover.
Socially-minded enterprises are businesses with a purpose beyond profit, a positive social and/or environment impact or those with aims to be more purposeful. Full eligibility details for the programme can be found on the OxLEP Business website.
Acting as the ‘front door’ into OxLEP Business, the Business Support Tool takes just 7 minutes to complete and enables the team of business experts to understand each business’ needs and provide them with a bespoke Business Support Action Plan, detailing local and national support available, including relevant events, grant schemes, expert advice and mentoring services.
One grant scheme being delivered by OxLEP Business that is currently open for applications is the Oxfordshire Apprenticeship Grant Scheme – formed as part of OxLEP Skills’ Social Contract Programme – and aiming to remove barriers in order for Oxfordshire residents to take up an apprenticeship.
The grant scheme can support apprenticeship delivery in many ways – this might include challenges in travelling to the workplace, purchasing specialist work equipment or internet provision from home.
Grants of between £1,000 and £1,500 are available to eligible businesses on behalf of potential apprentices, with grants of up to £3,000 also available under some circumstances. Funding for the Social Contract programme has been secured by OxLEP from the government’s Contain Outbreak Management Fund.
This comes after OxLEP Business announced the launch of its new Business Impact Report a fortnight ago, showcasing the stand-out achievements of the LEP in supporting the county’s businesses across the period from April 2021 to March 2022, along with a series of insights into the Oxfordshire business support landscape more broadly over the time period.
Key findings from the report highlight that over 6,000 hours of business support – valued at over £3,500,000 – were provided to those businesses who engaged with OxLEP Business over the period and 388 jobs were safeguarded or created through engagement with the team.
In the 18 months following the Covid-19 outbreak, OxLEP engaged with 2,670 businesses across Oxfordshire – with almost all of these coming through the Business Support Tool – and now OxLEP Business are determined to reach out to an even wider pool of organisations, supporting even more companies to understand that they too could benefit from available business support.
Adam Cornish – Co-Director of Global Dream Travel, one of the Oxfordshire SMEs to benefit from the eScalate programme, through a series of 1:1 support and participation within the investor pitching initiative – said: “For the first couple of years in the start-up process, we have received some invaluable 1:1 mentoring through OxLEP in areas such as marketing and growth. The discussions we have had have played a key part in our growth as we continue to increase our client-base and number of tours booked.
“It was also great taking part in the Investor Pitching initiative, as it gave us the insights, perspectives and tools to put together a strong pitch should we pursue investment in the near future.
“The other great thing about this event was connecting with like-minded business owners and innovators in the local area – which is always a positive thing.”
Watch a testimonial from one of our eScalate clients, Detonator Publishing:
Helen Brind – Growth Hub Manager at OxLEP – said: “Over the past few years, we have built up a first-class reputation of supporting businesses at both critical times in their respective growth journeys, as well as during times of economic challenge, in particular during the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit. Our Business Impact Report showcases just how many businesses we have reached and the value this has had during these periods – and as we look to move forward in the future.
“Many of the county’s SMEs don’t realise they are a ‘scale-up’ or are unaware of the support out there to help them grow their business – the eScalate programme aims to add clarity to the business landscape for businesses already operating successfully and looking to take the next step in their growth journey.
“Support available through the programme is also targeted at the wealth of purpose-driven enterprises already making a difference here in the county or those wanting to improve their social impact in the future – for whom we want to make the business support landscape as accessible and understandable as possible.
“Understanding what business support is on offer isn’t always easy – particularly whilst running a business – so we would urge all Oxfordshire SMEs to utilise our Business Support Tool, which acts as that first quick and easy step to engaging with us so that we can make you a bespoke offer of support.”
The next ‘Investor Pitching Fast Track’ workshop taking place through the eScalate programme will be held on Monday 16 January and Tuesday 17 January, with further dates over the coming months to be announced shortly.