skip to main content skip to accessibility policy


Priority Axis 3 - SME Growth

Priority Axis 3 - SME Growth

Enhancing the Competitiveness of SMEs

Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) are businesses with fewer than 250 employees; in the West of England a staggering 99.6% of our 43,100 businesses are SMEs. These businesses make a significant contribution to our economy, driving forward growth through job creation and spurring competition. However, we know that SMEs could make an even greater contribution if there were improvements in areas such as access to finance, export capability, innovation, and skills.

In the West of England we have been making headway in these areas with a number of activities and programmes aimed at increasing the growth capability in SMEs and providing access to a range of business support. Examples include the West of England Growth Hub, the Innovation 4 Growth fund, the West of England Growth Fund, the West of England Apprenticeship Grant for Employers (AGE 16-24) and Enterprise Zones. We have also been helping businesses with the potential to succeed in international markets through Passport to Export and Export for Growth.

We know that we need to build on the momentum that has been generated, and envisage using ERDF to do this. The primary aim of Priority Axis 3 is to improve the competitiveness of SMEs by increasing capacity and capability, and promoting entrepreneurship.

ERDF Investment Priorities under Priority Axis 3 are as follow:

3a - Promoting entrepreneurship, in particular by facilitating the economic exploitation of new ideas and fostering the creation of new firms, including through business incubators.

3c - Supporting the creation and the extension of advanced capacities for products, services and development.

3d - Supporting the capacity of small and medium sized enterprises to grow in regional, national and international markets and to engage in innovation processes.

Calls and current position

A call for applications delivering under Priority Axis 3 was released on Friday 17 March 2017 and closes on the 13 May 2017, the Call Specification can be found here.

The following projects have successfully secured ERDF in previous calls and are supporting SMEs to grow:

Local Manufacturing Advisory Programme (LMAP)

The local Manufacturing Advisory Programme (LMAP) service the needs of the south west manufacturing community by bringing together ambitious, high value manufacturing businesses, local manufacturing practitioners with years of experience of working in manufacturing and other local business support partners. The LMAP service from SWMAS empowers manufacturers to improve, grow and succeed and will:

  • Drive business growth through strategic and technical support for SMEs, developing Advanced Manufacturing capabilities and creating high value jobs
  • Enable business improvement
  • Motivate manufacturers to engage with external business support
  • Align with other major publicly funded support programmes

Export for Growth

The Export for Growth Programme provides intensive support to help SMEs overcome the common barriers to international trade. By enhancing their knowledge through the thinking phase, improving their skills through the planning phase and improving their commercial capability to sell to new international markets in the doing phase, the Project will enable more SMEs to win new business in export markets. The programme is made up of two key components:

  • Export Essentials - A suite of specialist support schemes that can help you with all aspects of your export journey.

  • Extend your Global Reach - Intensive strategic and commercial assistance to help your business enter or expand into high growth markets.

Enterprising West of England

The Enterprising West of England programme brings together three of the region’s most experienced business support agencies (Business West, The Princes Trust and YTKO Group) along with the four local councils to provide expert business advice and support for small and medium sized businesses throughout the West of England.  A £3.8 million pound package of support has been developed to provide guidance for anyone considering starting a business, and to help new and existing businesses achieve success. The programme consists of four distinct areas of growth development:

  • Start-up -Guidance and support for anyone thinking about starting a business.
  • Improve or grow - A range of workshops and sessions covering a variety of aspects of business growth.
  • Get investment ready - Intensive support for SMEs to access finance.
  • Scale up - Grant funding towards business coaching for growth.

Social Enterprise Innovation Programme

The Social Enterprise Innovation Programme (SEIP) will provide coaching and workshops to assist individuals looking to start or progress a social enterprise business. The Programme is project managed by the University of Bath in partnership with Bath Innovation Centre, The School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE), Voscur, and CVS South Gloucestershire.  Applications are now open for two programmes of business support:

  • Advice, Upskilling and Selection (AUS) Business planning workshops (equiv. to 12 hours) for new and very early stage social enterprise businesses
  • Business Incubation coaching and business mentoring (equiv. to 12 hours) for newly formed and mature social enterprises with good growth potential.

Network for Creative Enterprise

The Network for Creative Enterprise is a £1.1m tailored programme of SME incubation and support designed to generate economic growth within the West of England priority Creative and Digital Sector. The project leverages a network of cultural organisations including, Watershed, UWE Bristol, KWMC, Spike Island and The Guild, Bath to address the specific challenges of growth in the creative sector. It will spot, nurture and promote creative entrepreneurial talent via programme of mentoring, residencies, research consultancy, workshops and network development.