A PIONEERING £3.9 million fund to help small and medium-sized businesses grow and create jobs is now inviting expressions of interest from South Devon businesses.
Grants of between £25,000 and £150,000 will be available to eligible businesses on a competitive basis, with the first awards expected in April this year.
The fund has been launched after a successful £3.9 million bid to the Government's Regional Growth Fund (RGF) from Plymouth University and is expected to benefit around 75 businesses across Devon, Cornwall and Somerset, creating almost 500 jobs, including 323 directly, and a further 166 in the supply chain.
It follows the success of the University's first growth fund, which was awarded £1 million of RGF funding in August 2011.
This has supported 20 South West businesses with an average grant of £46,000 and is on course to create 86 new jobs by March this year – smashing the original target of 50.
Applicants are expected to demonstrate how investment will lead to rapid job creation through the delivery of a specific project within a 12-month period.
Almost all industry sectors can apply and funding can pay for a range of things including capital equipment, software, improving business premises and recruiting skilled staff.
Professor Julian Beer, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Regional Enterprise at Plymouth University, said: "Following the huge success of our first fund we are delighted to be inviting expressions of interest for round two.
"We know from experience that there is strong demand for funding from growth-minded businesses in Devon and we look forward to making our first awards and helping to drive economic growth in the region."
The fund is a key component of GAIN (Growth Acceleration and Investment Network) set up by Plymouth University, Plymouth City Council and the Tamar Science Park to drive business growth and job creation across the South West.
Applying to the fund is a two-stage process, with applications being appraised by a panel of experienced people from the investment and wider business communities.
The first stage is an initial expression of interest which will be assessed. A decision will be made at that point about whether the applicant can progress to a full application. If invited to do so, applicants will be put in touch with a professional adviser who will provide up to two days of dedicated support to help them hone their bid.
A final decision will be based upon this full application once submitted.
The whole process could take as little as three months with the first awards anticipated in April.
Bids will be appraised on a rolling basis until April 2014 when the final awards will be made.