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Thu, 08 Oct 2020 10:33am

£25 million has been made available in grants for productivity-boosting farming equipment in the third and final round of the government's Countryside Productivity Small Grants (CPSG) scheme.

Under the scheme, farmers can apply for grants of between £3,000 and £12,000 to buy new and innovative equipment – from livestock monitoring cameras to precision farming technology – which helps businesses save time and money and improve productivity.

Previous applicants may apply. Closing date midday 4 November.

More info available - here

Wed, 30 Sep 2020 8:11am

Peer Networks is a national peer-to-peer networking initiative for SMEs that will be delivered locally through Leicester and Leicestershire LEP and its Growth Hub, the Business Gateway. The programme is funded by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) in response to a commitment made in the 2019 Business Productivity Review (BPR).

We are seeking tenders from organisations able to deliver key elements of the Peer Network programme and support the growth of at least 154 participants from SMEs across the Leicester and Leicestershire area.


The UK's overall future productivity growth will largely be determined by the performance of individual businesses. While the UK has some of the most productive businesses in the world, we also have many low productivity businesses.

The BPR – part of the government's Industrial Strategy – found that those businesses adopting formal management practices are more likely to achieve higher turnover, employment levels and productivity growth. There is a broad base of evidence that suggests that businesses that seek external advice or undertake formal training are more likely to improve their overall business performance.

Evidence supplied to the review by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) indicates that businesses often prefer to take advice from trusted sources, and they look to their existing networks, such as their peers or their accountants, when taking advice. Businesses also usually take advice at trigger points, such as when faced with challenges requiring change, including both competitive pressures and opportunities.


Leicester and Leicestershire LEP is seeking to appoint a provider(s) to deliver key elements of the Peer Network programme. This is expected to support the growth of at least 154 participants from SMEs, through the provisions of 14 cohort groups, across the Leicester and Leicestershire LEP area.

The programme will see the creation of a series of peer networks (cohorts), with each group consisting of between 8-11 owners or managers from the SME business community participating in each network. Led by an experienced facilitator, these peer networks will typically meet fortnightly as part of delivering 18 hours of action learning through two-to-three hour sessions. In addition each owner or manager will receive 3.5 hours of 1 to 1 support.

Leicester and Leicestershire LEP are particularly interested to receive responses from individuals or organisations that can demonstrate experience of the effective delivery of Peer Network support within the LEP area. Individuals or organisations are invited to tender for one or more of the Peer Networks detailed below:

  • High Growth – 2 cohorts
  • Fashion and Textile Manufacturing – 2 cohorts
  • Manufacturing – General – 2 cohorts
  • Digital and Creative – 2 cohort
  • Tourism and Hospitality – 2 cohorts
  • Retail – 2 cohorts
  • Food and Drink Manufacturing – 1 cohort
  • Agriculture – 1 cohort

It should be noted that these Peer Networks are being delivered as a pilot programme and that the Leicester and Leicestershire LEP are keen to evaluate performance across multiple providers. To facilitate this, we may award contracts to 2 providers where the Peer Networks detailed above are to be delivered through 2 cohorts.

How to apply

A Peer Networks Detailed Information document can be found below and is for information purposes only.

Those wishing to formally respond must request the official MS word based version of the tender document by emailing finance-llep@llep.org.uk and clearly state which sector you wish to apply for.

Peer Networks Detailed Information.

As per the bulleted list above, Leicester and Leicestershire LEP will commission up to 14 individual cohorts/peer networks and we invite applications from those who are able to deliver between 1 and 14 cohorts.

The budget allocated is up to £14,000 per cohort (excluding VAT) – as a result, the contract value is between £14,000 and £196,000 (excluding VAT).

The tender deadline is 5pm, Monday 5 October 2020.

£750k cash pot to support county businesses
Fri, 17 Jul 2020 8:07am

Leicestershire County Council has launched a brand-new fund to help businesses get back on their feet.

The £750,000 Leicestershire Business Recovery Fund is aimed at small businesses within the county to help them recover from the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

From today (Thursday 16th July 2020), applications can be made for grants between £2,000 and £10,000. Businesses can use the money to ensure their survival by, for instance, developing online selling and diversify into new product areas.

The initiative is run by the council and funded through money secured from the Leicester and Leicestershire Business Rates Pool.

Nick Rushton, leader of Leicestershire County Council, said: "Leicestershire's business owners, entrepreneurs and local highstreets are having a really tough time. And we're committed to helping them get back on their feet in any way we can, so that the economy of Leicestershire can continue to grow and prosper.

"I encourage all county businesses to look into whether this fund could benefit them. The county council is on the side of businesses and we are working hard to support them now and for their ongoing success and development."

Grants are open to businesses with 50 employees or less. For the full information and how to apply visit: www.oakleaves.org.uk/leicestershire-business-recovery-fund

Neil McGhee, Chair of the Business Gateway Growth Hub Board, said: "It is great to see this additional support for local businesses that have struggled to access the grant support already available.

"The Business Gateway Growth Hub has taken many enquiries from businesses that are looking for government support and are seeking help to survive. We are pleased to add this grant funding to the other finance and business support that we list on our website and would encourage eligible businesses to apply as soon as they can."

All small businesses from every sector are encouraged to apply including those from the tourism, retail, agriculture, and creative sector. Businesses who apply will initially talk through their business plans with an advisor who will be able to assist with their application.

Businesses should apply as soon as possible as funding will be allocated at a first come first served basis.

Fund to support dairy farmers opens for applications
Mon, 22 Jun 2020 9:17am

The dairy response fund is now open for eligible farmers to apply for up to £10,000 of financial support following the coronavirus outbreak.

The dairy response fund has opened today (18 June) for applications from eligible dairy farmers in England in need of support following the coronavirus outbreak.

To be eligible for support from the fund, farmers in England need to demonstrate that they have suffered a reduction in the average price paid for their milk of 25% or more in April 2020 when compared with February 2020.

Qualifying farmers are entitled to up to £10,000 each to cover 70% of their losses across April and May incurred as a result of a drop in price, following a reduced demand for milk with the closure of restaurants, bars, and cafes in recent months.

This financial support will help farmers maintain production capacity and sustain their business without impacts on animal welfare.

Farmers will be able to apply for a single payment from the fund, which will be paid out from 6 July. Applications can be submitted directly to the Rural Payments Agency (RPA).

The deadline for applications will be 14 August.

National Forest - Sounds of the Forest
Thu, 18 Jun 2020 11:32am
National Forest - Sounds of the Forest

Following the postponement of Timber 2020, the National Forest are inviting people from across the globe to contribute to a different kind of gathering with the launch of Sounds of the Forest, an exciting new mass participation audio project.

The annual three-day festival at the heart of the National Forest, Timber celebrates the connection to trees and woodlands through music, art and ideas. This year it has had to be postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Thanks to the support of Arts Council England, Timber can continue to connect people with trees this year by collecting the sounds of woodlands and forests from all around the world to create a beautiful soundmap bringing together aural tones and textures from the world's woodlands. They are inviting people to visit their local forest or woodland and record one minute of the sounds they hear. Full details of how to send in sounds, including technical advice for how to get the best quality recording from a phone, are at timberfestival.org.uk/soundsoftheforest

At the start of July, on the weekend that Timber would have taken place in the National Forest, the forest soundmap will be released. The sounds will form an open source library, to be used by anyone to listen to and create from. Selected artists will be responding to the sounds that are gathered, creating music, audio or artwork, to be presented at Timber 2021.

Rowan Cannon and Sarah Bird, directors of Wild Rumpus, partners in creating Timber Festival, say: "We're incredibly excited to launch Sounds of the Forest. While we can't be together in person in July, this gives us the opportunity to gather in a different way. So, wherever you live across the world, visit a woodland, recharge under the leaves and record your sounds of the forest. If you are out and about, please continue to observe social distancing – we want you all to remain safe."

John Everitt, Chief Executive of the National Forest Company, partners in creating Timber Festival, comments:"Now more than ever, we want to encourage everyone to experience the transformational power of forests and trees. Recording a sound can share your woodland with the world, giving us an escape into nature and bringing us all closer together."

Elizabeth Alker, BBC Radio 3 presenter, broadcaster and patron of Timber Festival, comments: "It's so exciting that people across the globe are going to be bringing the sounds of their local woods and forests to the Timber soundmap using just their phones. Experiencing and engaging with nature is so good for our wellbeing which is why this project and Timber Festival, as well as being fun are also really important."

Stuart Maconie, broadcaster, writer and patron of Timber Festival, comments: "I'm lucky enough to live on the edge of a large woodland. So I'm very happy to be part of this excellent idea. It's been a strange spring and may be a curious summer but this soundmap will bring the vibrancy and freshness of the outside world into our ears and homes. It's the next best thing to being there."

Timber Festival is supported using public funding by Arts Council England.

Find out more about Timber Festival at timberfestival.org.uk, Wild Rumpus at wildrumpus.org.uk and the National Forest at nationalforest.org.

DIGITAL BOOST - Founders4Schools and BCG Digital Ventures Launch UK-Based Digital Boost, A Free Volunteering Platform Uniting Digital Experts With Leaders of Small Businesses and Charities
Fri, 12 Jun 2020 2:05pm
  • Founded by by Founders4Schools and BCG Digital Ventures, supported by the Department for Digital Culture Media and Sport, Digital Boost aims to support the six million British small businesses and charities impacted by COVID-19, on their digitalisation journey
  • The COVID-19 crisis has highlighted the gap between digitally high and low-tech organisations by forcing 67% of UK SMEs to temporarily close business, according to Simply Business
  • Digital Boost is on a mission to close this gap by providing a community of digital expert volunteers to support charities and small businesses through 1:1 "Boost Calls", interactive "Boost Workshops" and "Boost Skills" resources

Digitalboost.org.uk is on a mission to help small businesses and charities get the essential digital skills they need and by extension more customers and revenue streams through online channels. ‍ A 2019 study by the European Commission shows that less than a third of small businesses in the EC have a high degree of digitalisation, implying a large majority of small businesses lack the basic prerequisites for moving their business online. At this critical time, Digital Boost not only wants to help small businesses and charities survive the COVID crisis, but also contribute to their long-term competitiveness in today's digital world.

Digital Boost has three service offerings to help equip small businesses and charities with essential digital skills. "Boost Calls", one-to-one mentoring sessions with digital volunteers from top technology, agency, consulting and finance firms, "Boost Workshops", interactive, group masterclasses, run by digital experts on all digitalisation topics, as well as "Boost Skills", useful online content on digitalisation. ‍ Digital Boost has successfully recruited digital expert volunteers from top organisations such as BCG Digital Ventures, Google, Oxford University, McCann and Global Tech Advocates, all ready to mentor small businesses and charities.

The COVID-19 crisis has cast a painful spotlight on this lack of digitalisation of many small organisations. Being forced to shut physical locations, many small businesses and charities have no online revenue streams to fall back on. As consumers are expected to remain online post COVID-19, small businesses with a limited online presence will miss out on an ever-growing portion of business.

Digital Boost has been founded to counteract this trend. It is owned by Founders4Schools and has been built with the pro bono support of BCG Digital Ventures, a subsidiary of Boston Consulting Group.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is pleased to support Digital Boost to provide digital support for small businesses and charities in the UK that have been impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Commenting on the launch, Caroline Dinenage, Minister for Digital and Culture at DCMS said: "It is vital small businesses and charities are able to seize the benefits of modern technology. The new Digital Boost platform will help these organisations develop the skills they need. We look forward to helping build a community of digital experts, who are able to offer guidance and support to these organisations free of charge at this challenging time."

Commenting on the launch of Digital Boost, Sherry Coutu CBE, Chair of Founders4Schools, comments: "In the past, many leaders of small businesses and charities have struggled with building up a significant online presence. COVID-19 has exposed this lag in digitalisation in dramatic ways. We want to help those who work in and lead small businesses & charities to survive the COVID-19 crisis and be more competitive in the long-run in today's increasingly digital and online world."

Ajay Chowdhury, Managing Director and Partner at BCG Digital Ventures, London adds: "There are some services out there supporting small businesses on various fronts through the COVID crisis, yet our research has shown that none of them really serve the specific needs of UK's small businesses and charities that need quick and pragmatic help to digitalise in order to survive. That is why we founded Digital Boost. We respond to the individual needs of small businesses and charities and allocate volunteers to help them in pragmatic and quick ways."

Matthew Fell, Chief UK Policy Director at the CBI, comments: "Adopting digital technologies can help firms grow, find opportunity and be more resilient, so the potential impact of Digital Boost is enormous. Digital Boost promises to help businesses and charities find opportunity amid this crisis by embracing the digitalisation of their industries to support a stronger, more productive recovery."

Digital Boost has already supported a number of small businesses and charities, including Teens in AI, a UK-based charity, and Astrum Wine Cellars, a UK-based wine and spirit business. In the past, Astrum's revenues were driven primarily through the hospitality industry. Faced with the COVID-19 crisis, the company was quick to shift its focus to selling direct to consumers through online channels. Digital Boost growth experts helped Astrum launch their first digital advertisements, enabling the company to stay open for business throughout COVID-19. Speaking on the impact of Digital Boost, Astrum's Head of Growth Tom White said: "Time speaking to the Digital Boost volunteers has given us the confidence to step further into the digital world, a world that we were barely involved in 8 weeks ago. They helped us understand how to build a digital ad and gave us the tools to continue building and refining these ads for better customer acquisition". Teens in AI, a charitable organisation focused on serving students with an interest in technology, also benefited from Digital Boost's help by learning how to design their web-presence.

Digital Boost is ready to support hundreds of thousands more leaders on their journey towards mastering the digital tools demanded by customers in this new reality we are entering. We expect this volunteer effort from the digital community will ensure small charities & businesses help boost our economy.

Digital Boost is accepting volunteer applications and requests from small businesses and charitable organisations at www.digitalboost.org.uk and inviting other like-minded organisations from the digital community to get in touch at contact@digitalboost.org.uk.

Wed, 10 Jun 2020 10:19am

The Leicestershire Local Enterprise Partnership is looking to capture the effects, issues and opportunities created by COVID-19 on food and drink manufacturer businesses across this region.

The purpose of this comprehensive sector specific survey is to better understand the impacts of COVID-19 on business activity and particularly to identify the type of support to assist business development and longer term planning.

To review what support is needed, it is vitally important that you feedback on the type and level of support you would find of benefit to your business over the coming months.
Please help by taking part in this survey - it should take no longer than 15 minutes to complete. All information will be anonymised so no comments can be identified from a single contributor.


Wed, 13 May 2020 8:18am
New funding to support dairy farmers through coronavirus

A new fund will enable eligible dairy farmers in England to access up to £10,000 each to help them overcome the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

England's dairy farmers will be able to access up to £10,000 each to help them overcome the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.

The new funding will help support dairy farmers – who together continue to produce over 40 million litres of milk every day – who have seen decreased demand for their products as bars, restaurants and cafes have had to close.

Today's announcement is the latest action from the government to support dairy farmers, building on the unprecedented levels of support already announced by the Chancellor and our recent action to temporarily relax some elements of UK competition law to allow suppliers, retailers and logistics providers in the dairy industry to work more closely together on some of the challenges they are facing.

With some dairy farmers facing financial difficulties and excess milk, the new fund will provide support for those most in need. Eligible dairy farmers will be entitled to up to £10,000 each, to cover 70% of their lost income during April and May to ensure they can continue to operate and sustain production capacity without impacts on animal welfare.

It also comes as the government today backed a £1 million campaign to boost milk consumption and help producers use their surplus stock.

Environment Secretary George Eustice said:

Our dairy industry plays a crucial role in feeding our nation and we are doing all we can to ensure they are properly supported during this time.

We've already relaxed competition laws so dairy farmers can work together through the toughest months, but recognise there is more to be done. That is why today we have kick started a new campaign to boost milk consumption and have announced a further package of funding.

We will continue to stand alongside our dairy farmers through this difficult period.

The dairy sector is the UK's largest farming sector, with milk accounting for 16.85% of total agricultural output in the UK in 2018. Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, the dairy industry has faced challenges of excess milk, falling prices, and reduced demand from the hospitality sector.

While many farmers have already rerouted their milk supplies to retailers and supermarkets – which have seen increased demand in recent weeks – today's move will give the farmers in the greatest need the financial assurance to ensure they can remain operational, sustain production capacity and continue to meet animal welfare demands at this time.

Eligible dairy farmers who have lost more than 25% of their income over April and May due to coronavirus disruptions will be eligible to access this funding for those qualifying months, with no cap set on the number of farmers who can receive this support or on the total funding available.

It comes as the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) has today launched a new marketing campaign to increase consumption of milk in UK households, funded jointly by the AHDB, Defra, the Scottish Government, Welsh Government, Northern Ireland Executive and Dairy UK.

The £1 million promotional campaign will to help increase sales of dairy products by encouraging the public to drink more milk.

Christine Watts, AHDB's Chief Marketing Officer said:

This new innovative marketing campaign is a fantastic demonstration of what can be achieved when industry and Government join together to meet a common supply chain challenge.

It will support dairy farmers and processors in driving demand for milk within households across the UK. It will link consumers' love of the great taste of milk and dairy with how we are all having to manage these challenging times at home and at work.

The UK's food supply chain remains resilient and the Environment Secretary continues to meet regularly with representatives of the food and farming industry to ensure people can get the food and groceries they need.

Thu, 23 Apr 2020 2:36pm
FSB coronavirus survey now live

FSB latest survey opens for just one week, open to all businesses. Please share amongst networks to ensure that our region is well represented.

FSB has worked tirelessly with Government at the highest level to highlight the significant difficulties faced by small firms during these hugely uncertain times. We successfully lobbied for the package of measures announced by Government to support small firms through the crisis. However, we recognise that many small firms continue to lack the necessary support they need. FSB is committed to working continuously to represent the diverse nature and circumstances of small firms to Government and policy makers as they seek to navigate the crisis, but also as they look towards post-crisis recovery.

In order to get the information we need from the business community, to continue to provide robust evidence to Government, highlighting the myriad problems faced by small firms and seeking solutions, we have launched our Coronavirus Survey.

With this survey we would like to understand the impact that the coronavirus has had on business, thoughts on the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and business's role in the community.

This survey is an opportunity to have ensure the voice of local business is heard.

The survey is open to members and non-members and can be found here -

Tue, 07 Apr 2020 1:49pm

The Rural Services Network have compiled a list of responses / new opportunities to the covid-19 crisis from many national funders:

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