SMALL and medium sized manufacturers in Hampshire are being offered business support after an extra £11.8million was put into an EU-backed fund.

The Manufacturing Growth Programme has been extended until September 2021 despite Brexit and has been expanded to cover the Solent and M3 areas.

Funded by the European Regional Development Fund, the extended programme is set to help another 2,400 companies to tackle barriers to growth and could create another 2,500 jobs, it is claimed.

Support can be used for such purposes as continuous improvement, environmental and sustainability initiatives, leadership and management, people and skills, productivity, quality and strategy.

Martin Coats, operations director of Oxford Innovation, which delivers the programme, said: “In October 2016, we were given the task of setting up a programme capable of delivering over £10.3m of dedicated business support to SME manufacturers and I’m delighted to say that, thanks to the hard work of the staff and the Manufacturing Growth managers on the ground, we have achieved that.

“Over the course of the last two and a half years, we have helped more than 2,000 SMEs to identify and overcome barriers to their growth and this has added millions of pounds to the local economy and created in excess of 3,000 jobs, safeguarding thousands more in the process.”

He added: “Supporting manufacturers is not easy and you need a tailored approach, delivered by experts who understand what it is like working in industry.

“The Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and local Growth Hubs have seen first-hand the value we add to firms in their respective areas and this has resulted in their commitment to support us for another two and a half years.

Originally available to businesses in the West Midlands, Yorkshire and Humber, parts of the East Midlands and the South East, the growth programme it is now available in the Solent and Enterprise M3 LEP regions.

Dean Barnes, regional director of the Manufacturing Growth Programme said: “The £11.8m extension will provide enhanced support to more SME manufacturing businesses, as well as having the opportunity to add further value to those companies we have already supported.

“Our Manufacturing Growth managers are trusted experts that understand the language MDs are talking and, through a new manufacturing diagnostic tool, can guide them on making the right decisions, before bringing in specialists on specific issues they are facing or opportunities they’re looking to explore.”

He added: “The process is slick, the scope of support is tailored to each company’s needs, the diagnostic provides an in-depth look into their business and the results, as already proven, are making a real difference in terms of increased turnover, jobs and new products/processes.”

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