MILLIONS of pounds of vital funding is now available for Hampshire businesses as part of a new initiative.

The Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has today launched its Solent Advanced Manufacturing Fund.

The funding pot of £3.7million, run in partnership with Portsmouth City Council, is open for small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in the Solent.

It was previously only available for businesses in the supply chain of Portsmouth Naval Base after BAE Systems announced its decision to cut more than 1,000 jobs there last year.

But now it has been extended to any SME in the Solent maritime, defence, aerospace, advanced manufacturing and general services support industries.

The limit available for each company has risen from £300,000 to £500,000.

LEP senior account manager Steve Futter said: “The Solent has a strong specialism in defence industries and we need to ensure that for decades to come. This fund aims to safeguard and develop the industry, creating new jobs, safeguarding existing ones, exploiting innovative business models, improving competitiveness and increasing export business.

“We would urge any eligible SME to get in touch and take advantage of this opportunity.”

You can find out how to apply at