Expanding local SME sector and co-operative enterprise as part of the Small Business Action Plan
The Business Investment Team continues to offer a wide range of business support services to local small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to promote start up and growth. Support services include housing local SMEs in our business centres (Evolve, Software Centre and Washington Business Centre), providing information, advice and guidance, land/property searches, referral to wider local and regional support available, as well as financial assistance where possible to promote the growth of key sectors. The team works with local and regional partners including North East Local Economic Partnership (NE LEP), University of Sunderland, North East Business and Innovation Centre (NE BIC), Sunderland Software City and RTC North to ensure that Sunderland based SMEs access as much joined up support as possible. A small business action plan has been developed in recent years and is being reviewed and updated in line with adoption of the Community Wealth Building Strategy to bring additional focus to social enterprises and cooperative businesses.
The team is currently administering a £337,500 Innovation Grant scheme, part funded through the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), for SMEs who are developing new products or services to the market/to the business. Eligible SMEs can access up to £25,000 of grant funding, up to 50% of the total project cost. To date, £229,039.50 of grant funding has been offered across 18 SMEs within the city including one social enterprise (case study). The programme is due to end in June 2023.
Evidence from local economic development partners indicates that enquiries regarding business start-up have increased in 2020, in part at least as a result of increased job uncertainty and redundancies attributed to the impact of the pandemic. The NE BIC and Social Acumen continue to offer one to one start-up advice to individuals looking to set up a social enterprise or co-operative via specialist advisors, with the NE BIC also providing wider business start-up advice and guidance.