Abbie Kempe, Director of Enterprise and Engagement, reflects on the importance of leaving a legacy behind and promoting knowledge exchange following the SELEP integration.
Earlier this year, the Government issued directions asking Local Enterprise Partnerships to align and ultimately transfer their activities to upper-tier councils in their areas. With the work of the LEP due to transition into a new form led by Local Authorities in our area, it is imperative that we do not lose the experience and insight from a decade of European funded skills and business growth programme delivery.
Recently, I was invited to chair the SELEP (South East Local Enterprise Partnership) Lesson Learnt Webinar, which showcased learning and best practice from previous EU funded projects delivered in the SELEP area, to support skills development, innovation, and business growth.
Before the UK–EU Withdrawal Agreement, EU structural funds such as European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF) played an important role in driving sustainable economic development and reducing regional economic and social disparities.
During this time, organisations in the South East successfully administered and delivered several schemes. Such projects included South East Creatives, a business development programme, supporting growing creative practices working in Essex, East Sussex and Kent and Low Carbon Across the South and East (LoCASE) programme, encouraging low carbon solutions.
Canterbury Christ Church University also has a successful track record in delivering EU funded programmes. The Hi3 Network, a Research, Development, and Innovation project part-funded by the ERDF and valued at more than £6m, was the largest ERDF grant awarded in the South East LEP region and provided support to over 300 small and medium-sized enterprises in the creative industries. Its geography was strategically designed to maximise engagement and commercialisation with the creatives industries across the South East to capitalise on London’s notable creative drift out to the coastal communities and address digital skills shortages.
These projects all had significant impact across the SELEP region, both socially, culturally and economically. Throughout the delivery of these projects, working together was a fundamental ingredient, leveraging expertise and experience to maximise reach and profile as was, being flexible in managing programmes and to be responsive to the needs and feedback as activities progress.
A further important learning point was the deployment of funding and activities, understanding the local needs and how we interface with our audience as one size does not fit all – programmes should be relevant and intuitive to reach the target audience.
Going forward, new funding streams for growth including UK Shared Prosperity Fund, Levelling Up, Town Deals and Future High Streets are being deployed by Local Authorities who are seeking routes to spend this for best effect. In addition, plans are developing for devolution and other new routes, which hope to attract future local growth, and skills investment.
It is vital that we build on the learning from a decade of European funded programmes to respond to future need and capitalise on what has gone before.
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