OxLEP Business is Oxfordshire's Growth Hub. We are here to help Oxfordshire's Small and Medium sized businesses (SMEs) access the support they need to thrive.

How we help businesses

The OxLEP team will:

  • Signpost businesses to local and national business support services, schemes and events
  • Host events and workshops on a variety of topics
  • Run European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) business support programmes for SMEs

FREE business support programmes for SMEs and enterprises:

  • Innovation Support for Business (ISfB), which helps SMEs to bring new, innovative ideas to market
  • eScalate, helping scale-ups or SMEs with scale-up potential, and social enterprise SMEs

Each programme offers support via 1:1 coaching and mentoring, workshops and events and grant funding opportunities.

Our approach

As a growth hub, our services are completely free for small businesses (SMEs) in Oxfordshire.

In addition to our growth hub, we also have expert staff that provide professional advice, supporting businesses - both nationally and internationally - to set-up home in Oxfordshire.

Currently, OxLEP Business receives funding through the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and we have also secured European Regional Development Fund backing to 2022.

If you are looking for business support we are here to help you. Get in touch with the OxLEP Business team today.

Our team

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Richard Byard

Director of Business Development

Richard has over 30 years experience leading businesses to succeed. Commercially focussed he has a strong track record in service delivery, strategic development and operational management spanning the public and private sectors. He is an experienced relationship builder at senior level locally, regionally and nationally to deliver shared ambitions. He has responsibility for the OxLEP Business and OxLEP Skills functions including Inward Investment & Internationalisation, Business Support and our Skills priorities.

Richard Byard
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Helen Brind

Growth Hub Manager

Helen joined us in January 2018 and heads-up our Growth Hub - part of our OxLEP Business team - supporting businesses who are pre-start-up, start-ups or growing through a variety of different grant applications, workshops and other high-class support programmes.

Helen Brind
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Tracy James

European Programme Executive

Tracy joined OxLEP in December 2020 as the European Programme Executive for the Innovation Support for Business programme (ISfB).

Over the past 25 years Tracy has had various roles, mainly in education. This included being attached to a Sqn in the RAF and working as an Education Officer for 17 years. After this Tracy worked as an Exams Officer and a Project Manager for various FE colleges including Activate Learning. As a project manager Tracy successfully  managed five different ESF contracts. Tracy completed an MSc in Business and Management in 2012 with Mid Glamorgan University and more recently completed an MSc in Executive Coaching through the University of West England.

Tracy James
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James Ruel

Compliance Manager

James is a consultant providing part-time compliance support for OxLEP’s European funded projects. James has more than fifteen years’ experience working with European and domestic funding streams in the South East England Development Agency and a range of government departments. He has managed business support programmes, skills delivery programmes and cleantech focused funding schemes.

Within OxLEP, James also delivers workshops to SMEs on best practice in applying for grant funding.


James Ruel
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Sarah Beal

eScalate Programme Executive

Sarah Beal is the European Programme Executive for the eScalate programme, having previously worked on the OxLEP Growth Hub Elevate programme. She has a number of years’ experience in project management and commissioning roles.

Sarah Beal
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Katherine Shepherd

Innovation Support for Business (ISfB) Programme Assistant

Katherine joined OxLEP Business in November 2019, as Programme Assistant to the Innovation Support for Business (ISfB) programme, working alongside the Programme Coordinator and Executive.

Since graduating in environmental sciences and technology (MSc) Katherine has held various positions in the charitable sector, regional government and academia, primarily in project support and advisory roles in transnational funding and collaboration. Katherine spent the 4.5 years prior to OxLEP in customer service and sales support roles for a small independent organic wine company in which she gained first-hand experience of the small business sector, whilst returning to her environmental roots.


Katherine Shepherd
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Natalie Egan

Inward Investment Executive

Natalie has around 15 years' experience working within both the private and public sector.

She studied physics at the University of Edinburgh and has a background in property management, planning, business consultancy and economic development.

Natalie supports businesses to locate and expand in Oxfordshire and has a particular focus on the county’s technology sectors.


Natalie Egan
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Peter Russell

Innovation Support for Business Innovation (ISfB) Advisor

An innovation and technology management specialist, Peter has over 20 years of experience in supporting enterprise development. Much of his work has been within the start-up and SME communities and in the scientific, engineering, manufacturing and research and technology sectors (although not exclusively). Peter is an experienced consultant, business development expert and facilitator. He provides one to one support to ISfB clients – working alongside them to diagnose needs, unlock growth opportunities and explore the support available to help with innovation actions.

As well working with SMEs directly, Peter has consulted with many organisations and agencies in the innovation ecosystem in Oxfordshire and beyond (including the University of Oxford, Oxford Brookes, ESA, NPL and government agencies such as BEIS). He typically helps design and deliver knowledge transfer, business and community engagement and commercial services activities in these organisations. Consequently, he has a good understanding of the support available to businesses and can facilitate links on behalf of ISfB clients and establish mutually beneficial relationships where appropriate.


Peter Russell
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Sebastian Johnson

Head of Innovation and Inward Investment

Sebastian is our Head of Innovation and Inward Investment.

He has over 35 years of experience in economic development, business management, strategy and policy development. He has run his own businesses, worked in the public and voluntary sectors and advised businesses and local and national government. He is a co-founder of Smart Oxford and part of the Smart Oxford Partnership Board.

His current role at OxLEP involves leading the Inward Investment team and working alongside Government and local partners to develop an Internationalisation Strategy and Delivery Plan for Oxfordshire promoting the world-class innovation, assets and skills available in Oxfordshire.

Sebastian Johnson
Grace Powell

Grace Powell

European Programme Coordinator

Grace joined OxLEP in May 2020 and works as the European Programme Coordinator within the OxLEP Business team. 

Grace Powell
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Jordan Whitefoot

Digital Marketing Executive

Jordan joined OxLEP in April 2021 as Digital Marketing Executive, having previously played a key role in Abingdon and Witney College's communications and marketing function. 

Jordan Whitefoot

If you are interested in working for OxLEP Business we'd love to hear from you. Please send your CV with a covering note by clicking here.