Light fuse for young businesses

The £4m Fuse Fund, in which Lancashire Business View is a proud partner, is designed to help young businesses from the red rose county realise their ambitious growth plans.

Richard SlaterBy Richard Slater, lead partner, Fuse Fund.

The two-year programme, funded by the government’s Regional Growth Fund (RGF), will create 1,000 new jobs in the county. We are working alongside Regenerate Pennine Lancashire in partnership Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council.

The fund offers grant investments of between £5,000 and £50,000 to small and medium sized businesses that have been trading for less than 36 months. Priority is given to businesses in the manufacturing, digital and creative, environmental and energy technology sectors.

Projects from other sectors are also be considered, especially those which make the most of opportunities from superfast broadband, and bids which address specific issues of urban deprivation.

There is no interest or repayment necessary on the money received via the Regional Growth Fund. It is a grant not a loan, so it is essentially free money.

Businesses based within the county boundaries of Lancashire, including Blackpool and Blackburn with Darwen, who feel they may benefit from a grant, should apply by visiting www.fusefund.co.uk.

What sets this apart from traditional grant schemes is that this one is being led by the private sector and will be driven by entrepreneurial thinking.

We established the Fuse Fund because the great county of Lancashire has one of the largest economies in the north of England and is the second largest economy in the North West, generating £22.1bn of Gross Value Added, which is just under a fifth of all economic activity in the region.

Despite this, we consistently lag behind national and regional economic performance as well as that of Greater Manchester and Liverpool. Lancashire’s GVA per head is just 79% of the UK average and we have 34 businesses per 1,000 population, compared to 37 nationally. We recognise that this has to change and only through supporting SMEs to start up and grow will we close these gaps.