Midlands firms to benefit from free growth scheme

Growing Your Small Business

28 November 2016

  • Small businesses across the Black Country, Coventry and Warwickshire and the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP regions to benefit from free growth programme
  • Aston Programme for Small Business Growth offers workshops and the opportunity to pitch their growth strategy to finance experts

Aston University is looking for small business leaders to join their programme for early stage growth businesses.

The Aston Programme for Small Business Growth has been developed to support business leaders based within the Black Country, Coventry and Warwickshire and the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP regions to achieve early-stage growth through a series of workshops, one-to-one support and networking.  The Programme will begin in January 2017 and is currently inviting applications from ambitious small business and social enterprise leaders.

The six month programme consists of 9 one-day workshops taught by experts in SME leadership and management, together with one-to-one support from an experienced business mentor. Participants will be able to network with other business owners from across the Black Country, Coventry and Warwickshire and Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP regions, and will have the opportunity to pitch their growth strategy to external finance experts.

The programme, part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), is built upon the success of a pilot programme run in 2015, and is delivered by Aston Centre for Growth alongside a range of support offered by Aston University to growing SMEs. All of the 2015 participants surveyed after completing the programme are anticipating significant growth in turnover with 60% expecting turnover growth in excess of 200% and 48% also projecting employee numbers to grow in excess of 200% by 2018.

Commenting on the launch, Professor Mark Hart from Aston Business School said: “The survival and growth of new business ventures in the Midlands are essential to the prosperity of the region. Simply having a high level of start-up activity in the region is not sufficient on its own.

"We are delighted to be able to extend the opportunity for more early-stage businesses to benefit from support that we know will accelerate their initial growth, and we’re looking forward to welcoming some of the region’s most ambitious small business leaders to the programme.”

A participant on the pilot programme, Sian Kelly Director of Inform Accounting said: “I found it really beneficial to work with other participants on the programme, sharing ideas and gaining some new business. I would definitely recommend the programme to other small businesses as it is great for networking and provides the tools to develop your strategy for growth specific to your business. I now have new clients and have gained more confidence in my growth plan”

The programme aims to create over 80 jobs across the three LEP regions by 2019.

Interested businesses need to apply before 9th December 2016.  For further information visit the website (www.aston.ac.uk/smallbusinessgrowth) or email centreforgrowth@aston.ac.uk.


Notes to the editor

  • The project has received £827,216 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Department for Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. ERDF and ESF Branding and Publicity Requirements ESIF-GN-1-005, Version 6Date published 1 November 2016Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding
Eligibility Criteria:
  • To be eligible for the Aston Programme for Small Business Growth you need to own a small business or lead a social enterprise and have the desire and drive to grow your business. The business must:
  • Have an operational address in the Black Country, the Coventry and Warwickshire or the Greater Birmingham and Solihull LEP regions.
  • Be in their early stage with identifiable growth potential and have the ambition and opportunities to grow and create new jobs
  • Be trading for at least 12 months and be able to provide evidence of trading revenue
  • Have a least one FTE employee
  • Be an SME and meet the De Minimis State Aid criteria (received no more than €200,000 State Aid in the last 3 years)
Please note: Agricultural or retail businesses are not eligible for this programme because of funding restrictions.
  • Founded in 1895 and a University since 1966, Aston University has been always been a force for change. For 50 years the University has been transforming lives through pioneering research, innovative teaching and graduate employability success. Aston is renowned for its opportunity enabler through broad access and inspiring academics, providing education that is applied and has real impact on all areas of society, business and industry. True to Aston’s Coat of Arms which bears the word ‘Forward’, in 2016 Aston will hold a year-long anniversary celebration to recognise its heritage and achievements, but with a focus to drive forward the next stage in the University’s exciting journey. www.aston.ac.uk/50
  • Aston'sVice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, Professor Alec Cameron, is the principal academic and executive officer of the University. Alec has overall responsibility for Aston's executive management and day-to-day direction.


For more information, call Ben Kennedy, Press & PR Officer, on 0121 204 4592  or email b.p.kennedy@aston.ac.uk