A new programme to help businesses enhance their productivity and accelerate growth has been launched in County Durham.

Durham County Council is funding the Durham Business Growth Programme, a new scheme which has been launched by Business Durham, the council’s business support service, with its delivery partners RTC North and UMi.

With a total budget of £8.16 million, the programme combines the expertise of Business Durham, RTC North and UMi to provide a simplified and accessible platform for businesses seeking tailored support.

Scheduled to run until March 2025, the programme is expected to support 900 businesses, from which 250 will receive grants, leading to the creation and preservation of approximately 1,300 jobs.

The council secured funding for the Durham Business Growth Programme from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) through the Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities. The primary objective of the programme is to strengthen the county’s economy, with a specific focus on supporting local businesses.

Cllr Elizabeth Scott, Durham County Council’s Cabinet member for economy and partnerships, said: “The Durham Business Growth Programme represents a substantial investment in the future of our local businesses.

“It will serve as a catalyst for enhancing productivity and promoting growth among existing enterprises in the county. With a seamless, joined-up offering from our delivery partners, based on their strong track record, we are building on their wealth of experience.

“In alignment with the County Durham Inclusive Economic Strategy, this programme will provide the vital support necessary for businesses to thrive, generating job opportunities for people in the county. This programme is one key element of our support utilising the UKSPF funding we’ve secured, while other strands are focused on fostering innovation and enterprise within our community.”

The programme is open to all businesses in the county, regardless of their size or sector. However, particular emphasis has been placed on businesses operating in growing sectors, including the green economy, decarbonisation, space and satellites, fintech and digital, advanced material electronics, life sciences, and the creative and cultural sectors.

The programme offers a range of support, including:

  • Engagement and Relationship Management: A team of five Business Engagement Officers, including specialists focused on the tourism and rural sectors, will provide localised support, fostering connections and relationships vital for business growth.
  • Productivity and Growth Support: The programme offers diverse services such as one-on-one consultations, seminars, workshops, peer-to-peer events, and conferences, encompassing all business functions across various sectors, coordinated by RTC.
  • Comprehensive Grants Programme: Managed by UMi, the programme includes a capital fund of £3.3M, offering grants ranging from £10,000 to £200,000, and a revenue fund of £700K, providing grants from £1,000 to £10,000 for specialist consultancy.
  • Coordinated Marketing Approach: To streamline access to information and support, a dedicated website has been launched, serving as a centralised hub for businesses.

Nicki Clark OBE, chief executive of UMi, said: “County Durham has incredible potential which the Durham Business Growth Programme is focused on maximising. At UMi we have one purpose – to take the hard work out of finding and using the best information, expertise and finance to help businesses go further, so we are really excited to continue our long-standing relationship with Business Durham and Durham County Council and play an active role in helping business maximise their potential right across the county.”

John Heslop, from RTC North, said: “RTC North is delighted and enthused to be a partner alongside UMi in supporting Business Durham with this exciting and innovative programme developed for businesses across County Durham. Collectively, we will bring a wealth of experience, guidance and know-how to help businesses with their own improvement and growth ambitions.”

Durham Business Growth is now open for applications. For more information, please visit www.durhambusinessgrowth.co.uk