Lancaster University: LUMS awarded £500,000 to continue support for Lancashire SMEs

Lancaster University Management School (LUMS) has been awarded a further £500,000 by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to extend the successful business growth programme, Lancashire Forum.

Running since 2016, the Lancashire Forum – part-funded by the ERDF and run in conjunction with the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) – has helped more than 300 of the region’s SMEs and has helped those businesses create more than 75 new jobs through the project. This is all done with the help of a supportive peer network, a programme of interactive workshops and a range of facilitated learning experiences.

Now, with additional funding taking it through to June 2023, Lancashire Forum – which is supported by Boost, Lancashire Business Growth Hub – hopes to support another 100 small and medium-sized businesses to create a further 80 full-time equivalent posts. It also aims to support at least 25 businesses to introduce new products or ways of working as a result of the programme.

To re-launch the project, new ‘Business Excellence’ short programmes have been designed and will begin at the start of 2022. Each programme will consist of three half-day online workshops which are purposefully designed to be short, practical and impactful. All workshops are fully-funded for eligible small and medium-sized businesses, and are designed to tackle issues that often present barriers to business growth.

Alex Errington, Senior Project Manager at Lancaster University Management School said: “We are delighted that Lancashire Forum activity will continue, and that our region’s SMEs will still be able to access our support at such a critical time for so many.

“Our long-standing relationship with SMEs means we get to hear first-hand the pressing issues that are most affecting them, and now most businesses are back operating ‘as normal’, some are facing the challenges of changing consumer demands, issues with supply and rising costs – all of which can present barriers for businesses hungry for growth.

“We have designed our new half-day workshops around the practical support that SMEs tell us they need, right now. The three programmes will tackle these, with one dedicated specifically to ‘power moves’ – the action that entrepreneurs need to take to accelerate and de-risk the successful commercialisation of their new ideas. Another will look at the implementation of price increases – something many firms know they now need to do, but aren’t sure how to go about it; and through our ‘Lean for 2022’ programme, we’ll offer firms the chance to take a fresh look at the ‘lean’ business tools that can help them align their priorities and profitability with sustainability and the environment.”

The first programme, Pricing with Purpose, begins on 27 January 2022. This is followed by a Lean for 2022 programme on 8 February 2022, and the Ideas into Action programme starts on 3 March 2022.

Burscough-based audio-visual company, Redolution, is one of the 300 businesses that have benefitted from Lancashire Forum support to date. Alison Grady, Redolution’s Managing Director said: “To put it simply, we were better able to navigate Covid because of the Lancashire Forum. It made us look completely differently at our business.

“I felt more confident than ever as a businessperson through taking part in the Lancashire Forum. Some of the themes we covered in the sessions were familiar to me and it made me realise that I know this and I can do it: I had a really strong feeling of affirmation.”

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