One of the UK’s most successful industrial business support programmes comes to an end in June after helping the manufacturing sector to create or safeguard 12,435 jobs since 2016.
The Manufacturing Growth Programme (MGP), which is designed and delivered by Oxford Innovation Advice, will see funding from the European Regional Development Fund end and is now urging the Government and local authorities to ensure that tailored advice for manufacturing SMEs is quickly put in place.
A recent independent evaluation* of the programme found that MGP has delivered excellent value for money and achieved real results.
The report revealed that over 95% of companies surveyed expected their business to grow in the next five years because of receiving support from the programme, with 63% identifying the development of new products as one of the key areas.
In addition, 63% said they had already seen an increase in turnover, while 52% cited improved productivity as the main outcome of the support received.
MGP was established in October 2016 to address some of the main barriers to growth experienced by SME manufacturers.
Since then, it has been providing grant funding for business improvement/capital projects and specialist mentoring from industry experts, with 4564 companies assisted across the East and West Midlands, Yorkshire & Humber and the South East.
Its dedicated team of Manufacturing Growth Managers has delivered more than £13.9m of grants that, in turn, have unlocked over £25.7m of private sector investment. Importantly, it also generated £42,073 Gross Value Added (GVA) per employee in the companies it supported.
Jane Galsworthy, Managing Director of Oxford Innovation Advice – the leading provider of business support programmes for SMEs – explained: “This independent evaluation further demonstrates that specialist business support programmes like the Manufacturing Growth Programme play a crucial role in supporting companies to overcome everyday challenges and barriers to growth.
“With the new UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) dividing up funding for business support at a very local level, there is a risk that businesses will only be able to access generic, low-quality support which delivers lower value for money and less measurable impact on businesses and the economy.”
She went on to add: “We’ve proven over the last seven years what targeted support can do for SME manufacturers, helping them accelerate growth, improve productivity and create jobs. With funding for MGP coming to an end, this creates a significant hole in specialist high-quality support for smaller manufacturers.
“The results of our own survey** of manufacturers revealed reinforces this, with 91% of companies admitting they do not know where to turn for business support once this programme completes.
“Manufacturing is critical to the UK economy as it accounts for around half of all UK exports and nearly 10% of the country’s overall economy (GVA)***. We are keen, therefore, to engage with government agencies and local authorities to see how funding can be best utilised to provide continued specialist support for manufacturers.”
The Manufacturing Growth Programme is the UK’s largest and leading business support programme for SME manufacturers, delivering consistent, tailored support across 183 local authority areas. The findings of this latest evaluation report have proved that the MGP model has worked effectively to address market failures.
The report additionally highlighted how Oxford Innovation Advice adapted the programme during Covid-19 and Brexit to continue delivering high quality business support and effectively assist manufacturing SMEs through these difficult circumstances.
Jane said: “In the current economic climate, where businesses face multiple pressures from inflation, high energy prices, supply chain challenges and reduced consumer spending, the programme and its objectives are still as relevant now as they were back in 2016.
“It is now more important than ever that businesses have access to high-quality business support services and specialist expertise to help them achieve their growth potential. This, in turn, will enhance the economy, create job opportunities, and ensure the prosperity of our local communities.”
Verity Davidge, Director of Policy at Make UK, concluded: “Manufacturing is central to the future of the UK economy as a provider of high skill, high value jobs, especially in emerging technologies, digitalisation, and the move to net zero. SMEs are the absolute backbone of the sector employing the vast majority of people and it’s vital that support programmes are maintained to ensure they can grow and prosper.”
Oxford Innovation Advice has over 30 years of experience in designing and delivering effective business support programmes that generate growth for businesses, local communities, and the economy.
The team has supported over 33,000 SMEs across the country and developed a suite of innovative resources and tools for businesses, policymakers, and funders.
For more information on Oxford Innovation Advice, visit www.oxfordinnovationadvice.co.uk
For more information on the Manufacturing Growth Programme, visit www.manufacturinggrowthprogramme.co.uk