£150k fund targets rural innovation

A £150,000 rural business-to-business fund aims to help local firms thrive through innovation.

Delivered by Creative England, the Rural B2B (Superfast Broadband) Fund is to be rolled out across the north, midlands and south-west of England.

Investments of up to £25,000 aim to open up new opportunities for creative businesses with innovative digital solutions for companies based in rural locations.

Examples of the business types to benefit could include agriculture, food, engineering, renewable, transport and tourism, as well as others.

The programme is funded by the Regional Growth Fund and managed by Creative England in partnership with OnLincolnshire, which is supporting applications from all eligible regions.

Onlincolnshire is a Lincolnshire County Council-led project, working with partner organisations to promote good connections between people, services, communities and places.

Lincolnshire County Council said it believed the fund could help stimulate business growth in both rural Lincolnshire and throughout England's rural business community.

The local authority said ideas for applications could include anything from apps that measure carbon footprints to industry specific auction websites or intelligent tourism apps.

The options were limitless, it added, as applicants are asked to come up with the best digital B2B solutions for the rural market.

New digital solutions could take advantage of the superfast broadband infrastructure, and are asked to ultimately deliver products or services that help local businesses in the eligible regions.

Jim Farmery, Creative England's director of business development, said: "We are passionate about helping our creative industries thrive and creating economic growth in the regions.

"The Rural B2B fund aims to give cross-sector support to SMEs across England and provide investment to those with innovative creative potential."

Lincolnshire County Council and the seven district councils are providing public funds for the Lincolnshire broadband programme.

"Over the next few years we'll be dramatically improving broadband speeds," said Colin Davie, the council's executive member for economic development.

"We want to make sure local businesses within the eligible regions are in pole position to reap the benefits.

"We're already providing a wide range of support to help our firms make the most out of digital technology, and this project will take things another step forward."

The application process begins with an online eligibility check and an invitation to complete an expression of interest application.

Submissions will then be checked and successful businesses invited to submit a full online application to illustrate the business case for investment.

Application will also require a 50/50 match funding input.

Applicants can register and apply via the Creative England registration form.

The deadline for expressions of interest is Sunday, 27 July 2014.


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