IT is the scheme designed to give Hampshire businesses a shot in the arm and create dozens of new jobs.

And the first four companies have been chosen to receive funding from the Daily Echo-backed Bridging the Gap phase two fund.

The fund was launched at the Daily Echo offices in Redbridge last year, with £1.85m available for local businesses and entrepreneurs.

It was launched by the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), alongside the Echo and Southampton City Council, for businesses in Southampton, the Isle of Wight and the Waterside areas of the New Forest.

Funding is available for small and medium-sized business (SME) start-ups, SME growth, SME safeguarding, and for former employees at Southampton’s Ford Transit factory who are looking to set up businesses after its closure last July.

Now the scheme’s investment panel, featuring Solent LEP chief executive Ann-Marie Mountifield, the Federation of Small Businesses’ Wessex chairman Ken Moon and Daily Echo editor-inchief Ian Murray, has chosen the first four applicants to receive a share of the funding.

A total of £281,000 funding has been committed to the applicants, while leveraging in £143,000 from the businesses and other sources towards the projects.

Tamara Purves will receive £9,000 of funding to set up Rollin’ on the Isle, which will organise roller disco parties, events and children’s fitness groups on the Isle of Wight.

Tamara said: “It will bring a totally new sport to the Isle of Wight.

“There’s never been organised roller disco or roller skating for adults, and I will also be running family sessions and holiday clubs for children which will help with their fitness.”

Marine Data Systems, an award-winning developer of marine navigation equipment which has been used in NATO military vessels, has been awarded £50,000 which will be added to other finances in a major expansion project which will create three new jobs and an apprenticeship position.

The Newport-based firm’s managing director, Tim Ingram, said: “Turnover has been limited by a lack of space, design resource and marketing resource.

“The grant will enable us to provide the additional space required to upgrade and house our environmental test equipment and increase marketing activity.”

Rotary power measurement system manufacturers Datum Electronics, based in East Cowes on the Isle of Wight, has received a £35,000 grant which has been matched with £35,000 of other funding.

The funding, which will create or safeguard six posts, will be used to improve production systems to increase volume, and increase the firm’s marketing presence.

And Daniel and Kirsty Forster have received £38,000 towards their Isle of Wight-based business, The Mobile Vet, which has already won a National Award for Ready for Business, best B2C business in its first six months of operation.

That and the £22,000 of additional funding leveraged in, will allow them to invest in a new vehicle which can be used as a first response unit for routine visits, new equipment, and to employ two new staff members.