Edinburgh mobilises £12m business support programme

Today’s post looks at how the Council’s new Economic Strategy will support businesses in Edinburgh over the next five years.

Edinburgh is preparing a major £12 million programme of business support as part of a pioneering 'strategy for jobs' to be launched in September.

The programme builds on the City of Edinburgh Council 's track record in supporting almost 5,000 start-ups and existing businesses a year and is core to its flagship new five-year Economic Strategy spanning 2012-17.

This responds to a growing jobs gap - high population growth and the challenging global economy mean that by 2018 there could be up to 37,000 more jobseekers in the city than jobs - and sets out four programmes of activity to address this. The Scottish capital's key targets are supporting the creation and safeguarding of 20,000 jobs; supporting £1.3 billion of infrastructure investment and helping 10,000 people into work or learning.

The strategy's Business Support programme is expected to cost around £2.5m a year, support at least 2,200 jobs a year and involve engaging with more than 6,000 businesses and individuals, including at least 150 high-growth firms.

"In the age of austerity, jobs growth is not going to come from the public sector - it's going to come from the private sector - so we need to ensure we're doing everything we can to help businesses identify opportunities for growth and employment," explained Sue Bruce, Chief Executive of the City of Edinburgh Council.

"Councils are often seen as putting barriers in the way of doing business. But I want Edinburgh to be a place where it's easy to do business, where companies can find all the services they need in one place. We're bringing every department in the council together to provide this 'one-door' approach to business services for the first time."

Central to this is the creation of a dedicated new service area and front desk for business customers in the council's Waverley Court headquarters. Due to open this September, this will house the council's Business Gateway hub (City of Edinburgh Council is the lead local authority for the delivery of Business Gateway across Edinburgh and the Lothians) alongside planning, building control, licensing, trading standards and other business-related services.

A new 'Edinburgh Business Gateway Partnership' is also being developed to provide co-branded business support services with partners. Among the first of these is a new microbusiness support centre being opened at Telford College , where Business Gateway advisers and information will be on hand.

Other key elements of the programme designed to encourage innovation, support key sectors, enhance local supply chains and support new investment by Edinburgh businesses include:

● A new project to identify 100 potential high-growth companies and support their growth and investment plans, leading to the creation of 250 jobs

● The Edinburgh Entrepreneurship Development Programme - a new initiative offering intensive support to develop the entrepreneurial skills of at least 30 people a year

● Working with Edinburgh Science Triangle - a partnership of seven science and technology parks across Edinburgh and the Lothians - to support the growth and investment plans of at least 50 SMEs a year

● Supporting the development of Creative Edinburgh, the council-backed not-for-profit membership organisation for creative professionals and businesses, including projects to develop workspace and investment opportunities

● Assessing the business support needs of the low carbon economy including potential supply chain opportunities

● Helping 200 Edinburgh-based companies a year access public contracts through the government-backed Supplier Development Programme

● Providing loans of between £2,500 and £50,000 to at least 14 companies a year through the East of Scotland Loan Fund, a consortium of nine east of Scotland local authorities

● Working with Scottish Development International, SCDI and others including Smart Exporter to introduce 100 companies a year to new international trade and provide at least one overseas trade mission a year.

A number of successful existing business support projects will also be continued and developed. These include two partnerships with Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce: Executive Skillsbank - established after the banking crisis to help exiting top executives transfer their skills and investment to growing businesses - and The Edinburgh Growth Club - which provides support to high-growth firms and has grown from 15 to 160 members.

Collaborating with partners including Scottish Enterprise, SDI, Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of Small Businesses and local colleges and universities is central to City of Edinburgh Council's 'Team Edinburgh' approach to delivering its new strategy.

"Without a growing business base, there can be no growth in job opportunities, so our call to action is for everyone to step up and work with us on this - delivery partners, council departments and businesses themselves," Bruce said. "There are opportunities out there but sometimes the risks are inhibiting people from taking action. We can help by making it easy for businesses to interact with us and by supporting their plans to create and retain jobs, increase turnover and develop new products or markets."

A conference to launch Edinburgh 's new Economic Strategy 2012-17 will be held in Edinburgh on 12 September 2012. The keynote speaker will be Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Health, Wellbeing and Cities Strategy, Nicola Sturgeon.

Find out more about the conference and register for free at www.edinburgh.gov.uk/investinginjobs

Our final post tomorrow will look at how the Council's new Economic Strategy will help get at least 10,000 unemployed people into work or learning over the next five years.


Robert Boyce, Co-founder, Director, IceRobotics Limited

IceRobotics Ltd is an electronics and software company which specialises in monitoring dairy cattle behaviour and welfare. "After several years of selling devices to animal scientists studying dairy cattle behaviour, in 2011 we launched a new world-leading wireless system for commercial dairy farmers to help them improve their cows' health, welfare and productivity", explains Robert Boyce, Co-founder and Director of the company.

Since the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008, however, it has proved difficult to obtain loans from banks even when the directors were able to increase their share capital in the business. IceRobotics applied for and received development finance from the East of Scotland Investment Fund (ESIF) - managed by the City of Edinburgh Council - instead. "The loan, which was matched by the directors' own investment, was provided at a very critical time - before the company had developed a sufficient track record of ongoing sales for its bank to provide overdraft or other loan facilities."

"Dealing with the Economic Development Officers in the Council was a very pragmatic exercise. They understood the company's business case and trusted its potential. Their support in advising on completion of the necessary forms was very helpful, too".

IceRobotics Ltd, which is based in South Queensferry, launched its sensor-based system "CowAlert" in the UK in 2011. For 2012 and beyond, they anticipate significant sales growth through international sales.


Philip Contini, Chairman and Managing Director, Valvona&Crolla

Valvona&Crolla is a family business founded in 1934. It is now Scotland 's oldest delicatessen and Italian wine merchant which runs a delicatessen on Elm Row, a bakery on Montgomery Street , VinCaffeRistorante on Multrees Walk and the Food Hall in Jenners, Princes Street .

As part of the Council's Economic Development Service's ongoing activities to support town centres and SME's during the recession and during the tram works a dedicated Business Co-ordinator has helped businesses on Leith Walk in general and on Elm Row - where Philip runs his Italian delicatessen. Philip Contini advises:

"Our advisor has assisted us and fellow businesses by organising promotional activities to raise the profile and identity of Leith and drive footfall into the area. These have included: the erection of colourful banners along the Walk highlighting local people and places; creating the "I Love Leith" brand with Dine Around and festival campaigns; the creation of a Business Hub and Training Centre within the local library which offers a wide programme of free Business Gateway workshops ranging from "Starting Up", "Finance and Cash Flow" to "Social Networking"; an Edinburgh World Heritage shop front improvement project and a new exciting window dressing competition "Leith Shop Idol".

Speaking on behalf of other retailers in the area, Philip concludes that it is "important for us to be able to keep in touch with one person who engages with us not only to help promote our businesses but also to offer us on-going practical advice and support".

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