BUSINESSES are being offered millions of pounds to create jobs, increase profits and boost the economy.

Up to £5million at a time could be available through Solent Enterprise Partnership (LEP) for major projects, while investment in smaller initiatives will start at £5,000.

The LEP wants to hear from people looking to start businesses, those needing money to get a particular project up and running and those who need support for bigger programmes.

The programme offers were launched by trade minister and former Southampton councillor Conor Burns on a visit to the area yesterday.

He said: “I am delighted to be able to launch this new support, which includes financial backing for the area’s world-class small and medium-sized business base to develop the new international markets and trading relationships that will boost UK productivity.

“I am committed to working with Solent LEP and businesses in the region to make sure Britain is ready to embrace the opportunities and overcome the challenges that leaving the EU on October 31 presents. Having attended Southampton University and lived for many years in the region, I know personally the dynamism of the Solent area.”

The LEP is especially keen to see applications that will support the “emerging strengths” identified through consultations which informed the development of a local industrial strategy for the region.

Those strengths include marine and maritime, advanced manufacturing, aerospace, defence, life science and healthcare, digital and creative industries, oil and gas, the information economy, the visitor economy, construction and clean/green technology.

The funding for major proposals could go above £5m in in exceptional circumstances.

The money for large projects will seek to build on previous investment through the LEP’s Local Growth Fund, which has included the UK’s first Centre for Cancer Immunology in Southampton and a new link road to unlock investment at the Dunsbury Park site in Havant, which is now home to a distribution centre for Fat Face.

Gary Jeffries, Solent LEP chairman, said: “Our internationally recognised region has always been at the vanguard of UK innovation, trade and investment and we want to invest now to ensure our coastal powerhouse leads the charge in the government’s plans to unleash the productivity power of the nation.

“This funding for large-scale projects in the Solent region is key to bringing forward the transformational investments that will help create jobs and improve the economy for the benefit of everyone living, studying or working here.”

The funding packages for small and medium sized businesses are from £5,000 to £500,000 and are targeted at those looking to start a brand-new business, those looking for money for a specific project to support growth, such as expanding the business premises or bringing in new equipment, and supporting businesses through challenging trading conditions.

Brian Johnson, Solent LEP deputy chair and SME business ambassador, said: “There has always been a strong entrepreneurial spirit in this region and we have seen this first-hand through our own SME funding programmes that have enabled the LEP to invest over £10.5m in close to 300 businesses and new start-ups so far. We want to back our Solent businesses to explore new markets, develop new products or explore new global trading relationships as we prepare for a post-Brexit world.”

For larger capital projects, the LEP is holding free webinars, with the first on Thursday, August 15. Details are at