The Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is seeking applications for a share of a new £375,000 SME grant fund.
The Restart and Recovery & Kickstarting Tourism Grants have been created specifically to help SMEs in the Solent LEP area to adapt and diversify in response to the impacts of Covid-19, with at least £157,000 ring-fenced to support the visitor economy and the remaining funds open to applications from SMEs in the wider economy.
Funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), eligible SMEs can access grants of between £1,000 – £3,000 (and up to £5,000 in exceptional circumstances). All grants must cover 100% of the cost of the product or service applied for, with no requirement for match-funding.
Examples of eligible expenditure on professional services include:
- Review of the business strategy
- Strategic review of business models
- Development of recovery plans
- HR, financial and legal advice
- Coaching and mentoring in leadership and management development / Change management
- Innovation strategy to adapt and diversify products/services
- The introduction of new technology
- Developing or revising marketing/digital strategies to reach new markets
- Mitigating the impact of social distancing measures
- Rebuilding a viable business model
- Developing product offerings
- Legal and environmental health compliance
- Skills analysis and development plans
- Workforce management
- Employee engagement, welfare and wellbeing
Grants may also be used to purchase minor equipment to adapt or adopt new technology in order to continue to deliver business activity or diversify. For example, a tourism business may need to purchase a second cash register to enable adequate social distancing in its gift shop. Other examples of potentially eligible expenditure on equipment (where a Covid-19 related impact can be demonstrated) could include:
- IT hardware to support home working (excluding [the replacement of existing] PC/Laptop and mobile phones)
- Software to enable secure remote working
- Online sales/purchasing platforms
- Equipment for remote working including desks, chairs etc.
- Cloud based storage
- Website creation / development
Solent LEP Chair, Brian Johnson said: “The visitor economy is incredibly important across the whole Solent region and this fund will allow this sector specifically to apply for help. This fund has been created in response to a number of SME’s seeking specialist advice to further mitigate the impact of Covid-19 in order to build resilience within their business. The grants will also help if SME’s want to address potential new opportunities which could require ongoing support and guidance.”
To be eligible for the fund, you must be an existing SME with at least one years trading history. All funds will be allocated on a competitive basis providing the strongest bids with funding and we are particularly keen to encourage applications from those that have not previously received Covid-19 related support.
Round one of the Fund will close once 1,000 applications have been received, or one week from its launch on 16 September, whichever is the sooner. Should 1,000 applications not be received, round one will close at 11:59 pm on 23 September 2020. The Solent LEP is expecting application levels to be very high and is strongly encouraging businesses to apply as soon as possible.