The £40m Call

Featuring Richard Wadman | 20th September, 2017

£40m up for grabs in the last roll of the dice for EU funded business support in Cornwall and Isles of Scilly.

A colleague recently blogged on the Calls for European Structural Investment Fund (ESIF) projects issued in the past 2 weeks.

The £40m Call

The Call that grabbed my attention was the Call for SME Support (OC05R17P 0600) in Cornwall and Isles of Scilly for a couple of reasons:

  1. The sum available – £40m (approx. 8% of the total sum allocated to CIOS from recollection)
  2. The fact that an element of this funding is aimed at creating a range of self-sustaining business support options (and follows on from a number of other ESIF Calls, and previous rounds of EU funding aimed at achieving the same aim).

“Be afraid, be very afraid..”?

I fear that this Call results in (or extenuates) a business support landscape in the county that is too fragmented as to be efficient; with different projects fighting over the same outputs and, in some cases, providing a service where there was no strategic need.

Examples of the fragmentation are already prevalent with a colleague having been asked to provide technical input into presentations on research development and innovation (RDI) to three different audiences, at three different events, in consecutive days later this month; two of these events are organised by EU funded schemes.

I would question the strategic need for a presentation on alternative finance and grants during Newquay Business Week (9-13 October) to be delivered by an EU funded scheme – a presentation that we, or at least two another private sector organisations, would have delivered.

In addition, I see a potential danger that the EU eligibility rules will lead to the creation of a two-tier business support system with those businesses eligible for EU support being inundated with offers of funded assistance and those ineligible (retail, tourism, primary agriculture, etc.) being shunned.

What I would like to see

I note that in the drafting to the Call there is recognition of several business support projects that are already being funded and “alignment with other currently contracted projects would be particularly welcome” – I see this as key.

I would like to see:

  1. Recognition (in the award of contracts and delivery of contracts) that the private sector is providing business support and to seek alignment with them as well as other contracted projects.
  2. A single point of contact for business support that is more than a signposting agency e.g. a manager or partner to be the point of contact for a client and will refer to or bring specialist assistance (e.g. VAT) or sectorial expertise from within the PKF Francis Clark team but who will remain the point of contact for the client on their journey.
  3. An overarching body/person to assume responsibility for co-ordination of the business support agencies e.g. all events to go through them so there is one calendar of events and, where applicable, events are dovetailed together (e.g. an RDI day?)
  4. Capacity and ability to support ineligible businesses to be factored into the applicant appraisal process.

The Call is not all about business support

A colleague described the Call as the “throw it at the wall and see what sticks” Call; covering as it does workspace and the potential for intermediaries to operate delegated funding schemes.

This is one of the last rolls of the EU dice for the county on the monopoly board of Cornwall PLC. Let’s hope that the emphasis placed on business support e is a good Call!

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