IT IS A sum of money that could make the dreams of dozens of would-be Hampshire business people reality.

And now a second round has opened for entrepreneurs and current business owners to bid for a portion of the £1.85m jackpot.

The funding is available through the Bridging the Gap phase two fund, which is being run by the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), in partnership with the Daily Echo and Southampton City Council.

The fund was launched earlier this year at an event at the Daily Echo office in Redbridge, and since then there have been 62 applications for funding in the first round of bidding.

A fresh wave of bidders are now being invited to put their projects forward and join them in the hunt for vital investment.

The money was made available through the Government’s £2.6 billion regional growth fund and is available to firms in Southampton, the Isle of Wight and the Waterside areas of the New Forest.

Funding is available in three separate pots – for small and medium-sized business (SME) start-ups, SME growth and SME safeguarding.

Another pot of £500,000 has been ringfenced for the Ford Impact Fund, which will be available to former employees at the Ford Transit plant in Swaythling, which closed last month and who are looking to set up new businesses.

The money can also be used by firms within Ford’s supply chain who may be forced into making job losses as a result of the Transit plant’s closure in July.

Solent LEP director and chairman of the Bridging the Gap investment panel Stuart Hill said: “It’s great to see how businesses have responded and are really taking advantage of the opportunity on offer here.

“Thanks to the success of this process, these funds will soon start to a make a real difference in our economy, creating jobs and helping companies grow.

“And this is just the start for Bridging the Gap. I’m really looking forward to seeing what our next round of funding can help to facilitate.”

With £1.6m still available through the scheme, bidders have until September to register their interest in winning some of the funding.

How to apply

THERE are two stages to the application process.

Firstly, you must submit an expression of interest providing a summary of your bid.

Forms can be downloaded at and then emailed to when completed.

The deadline for the second round of expressions of interest is September 6.

Further rounds will be announced in due course.

Once the advisory panel has looked at each bid, successful applicants will be invited to submit a full bid.

There is no fixed closing date for full bids, but as there is only a limited amount of funding early bids are recommended.