Businesses in the East of England are being offered free intensive support to help them get through the challenges of the economic downturn, with new investment announced today by the East of England Development Agency (EEDA).

EEDA’s ‘Intensive Support for Businesses’ programme has been set-up to complement the government’s launch of ‘Real Help for Business’. Experienced advisors from some of the region’s enterprise agencies will work alongside up to 600 start-up and established businesses across the region; to help them address difficulties and improve their efficiency, and by doing so, giving that business a better chance of surviving the current economic climate. 

EEDA’s announcement was made at the regional launch of the government’s ‘Real Help for Business’ measures designed to address the cash flow, credit and investment needs of small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Unveiled by Business Secretary Lord Mandelson, the £22 billion support package, which builds upon the commitments outlined in November’s Pre Budget Report, consists of loan guarantees and a new Enterprise Fund aimed at helping companies struggling to access finance for working capital and investment.  

The regional launch of Real Help for Business was held at the Cambridge Science Park on Milton Road where EEDA chair Richard Ellis met the team from Owlstone – a rapidly-growing hi-tech business developing miniaturised chemical sensors. Richard Ellis said: 

“There is no doubt that it’s a difficult and worrying time for many businesses across our region. The Government are taking an important step by guaranteeing bank loans to businesses through Real Help for Business. 

“EEDA’s own intensive support programme will complement the Government’s actions by offering businesses that one-to-one dedicated time with specialist advisors which can be so important in finding ways to adapt, survive and improve. My message to businesses remains the same – seek this sort of help early to ensure that you are in the best possible shape to face these challenges head-on.” 

Owlstone are currently working on a big U.S contract, providing their technology to the Department of Defense. Commenting on the new support for business, Owlstone director Billy Boyle said:  

“High-tech companies create employment today but also the jobs of tomorrow. Support through the Real Help for Business programme will help the companies and products of tomorrow and will make a big difference to long term competitiveness of the East of England and the UK as a whole.    

Business Secretary Lord Mandelson said: 

“UK companies are the lifeblood of the economy and it is crucial that Government acts now to provide real help to support them through the downturn and see them emerge stronger on the other side.

“We know that some companies are struggling to secure the finance they need, not because of any failure in their business but due to the tougher credit conditions. That is why we have designed a package of measures addressing different forms of credit and providing real help for businesses.”

The Government measures include: 

A £10bn Working Capital Scheme, securing up to £20bn of short term bank lending to companies with a turnover of up to £500m     

An Enterprise Finance Guarantee Scheme, securing up to £1.3bn of additional bank loans to small firms with a turnover of up to £25m

A £75m Capital for Enterprise Fund (£50m from Government augmented by £25m from the banks) to invest in small businesses which need equity. 

Companies can find out more about the Real Help for Business package by visiting the national online portal at www.businesslink.gov.uk/realhelp/finance.

For further information on EEDA’s new ‘intensive support’ project, businesses in the East of England should visit the ‘Growth’ line on EEDA’s Business Map – http://www.bizmapeast.co.uk/.