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The business support team within the county’s Local Enterprise Partnership – OxLEP Business – offers a whole host of support, including £1.2m of grants to be issued this Autumn to eligible businesses within the visitor economy and those looking to innovate.

OxLEP is urging the county’s businesses to make the most of ‘Oxfordshire Day’ today (Wednesday 19 October), by utilising its free ‘Business Support Tool’ to find out what support could be available to them, including funding via a grant pot totalling over £1.2m.

Operating as the ‘front door’ into OxLEP for Oxfordshire SMEs, the Business Support Tool takes just seven minutes to complete and enables the team of business experts to understand each business’ needs and provide them with a bespoke Business Support Action Plan, detailing local and national support that’s available including relevant events, grant schemes, expert advice and mentoring services.

With grant support on offer including the recently-launched Visitor Economy Grant Scheme, run by OxLEP Business as part of OxLEP’s Visitor Economy Renaissance Programme – which itself, aims to back the sector’s ongoing re-emergence from Covid-19 through a variety of positive interventions – the scheme provides funds to eligible businesses, ranging from £5,000 to £24,999 per business.

Businesses who could be eligible for a visitor economy grant cover a huge range of sub-sectors, from hotels to car rentals, distilleries to independent retailers, takeaways to passenger transport organisations.

Other grant support on offer includes the Oxfordshire Apprenticeship Grant Scheme – a product of OxLEP Skills’ Social Contract programme, offering grants from £1,000 to £3,000 to eligible businesses to help remove potential barriers experienced by apprentices to start or complete their qualification – and a series of ‘Go-Create’ grants, available via the ERDF-funded Innovation Support for Business programme, supporting tech and non-tech businesses to implement innovation projects.

Go-Create grants are available on a competitive basis from £5,000 to £50,000 per business with applications currently ongoing.

Funding for the Visitor Economy Renaissance Programme and the Social Contract Programme was secured by OxLEP via the government’s Contain Outbreak Management Fund.

SMEs can also hear more about the support available through the various OxLEP Business programmes at OxLEP’s Annual Event, set to take place at the Curzon Cinema in Oxford on 1 November.

The event will cover what’s ahead for OxLEP, its programmes and the support on offer through the various teams within the organisation, as well as looking back on key achievements for the Local Enterprise Partnership over the past 12 months.

Since its launch in 2011, OxLEP – with partners – have secured around £1bn-worth of central government and European funds for the Oxfordshire economy. In total – OxLEP oversees a £3.3bn growth programme for Oxfordshire.

In the 18 months following the Covid-19 outbreak, OxLEP engaged with 2,670 businesses across Oxfordshire – with almost all of these coming through the Business Support Tool – and now OxLEP Business are determined to reach out to an even wider pool of organisations, supporting even more companies to understand that they too could benefit from its business support.

Helen Brind – Growth Hub Manager at OxLEP – said: “Over the past few years, we have built-up a first-class reputation of supporting businesses at both critical times in their respective growth journeys, as well as during times of economic challenge, in particular during the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit.

“As we look ahead to our Annual Event next month, it’s true to say that we have never had such a variety of funding opportunities available to Oxfordshire businesses and we are determined to ensure as many companies as possible are aware of what is potentially available to them at such an important moment for our business community.

“We also appreciate that understanding the business support landscape and eligibility requirements for what’s on offer isn’t always easy – particularly whilst running a business – so our Business Support Tool acts as that first ‘quick and easy’ step to engaging with us so that we can make you a bespoke offer of support.”

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