Connecting Cambridgeshire has secured multi-million pound funding to help local businesses get on the superfast highway and drive economic growth by making the most of the latest digital technologies.
The partnership of local County and District councils has successfully bid for £1.173million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to support businesses in making the most of digital opportunities as part of its programme to boost connectivity and technical innovation across the county.
The announcement comes just weeks after an award of up to £3.43million from the Government’s Urban Broadband Fund for a new voucher scheme to help businesses afford faster broadband connections and to make Cambridge and its surrounding economic areas ‘super connected’.
Together the extra funding sources mean Connecting Cambridgeshire will be able offer a county-wide package of support to hundreds of small and medium sized businesses improving their connectivity and use of digital technologies to increase productivity and create new jobs.
The additional investment will complement the roll-out of superfast broadband to over 90% of homes and businesses across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, with better broadband reaching all communities, by the end of 2015.
Work has already begun on setting up the new business support scheme, which will offer match funded grants and one-off payments for eligible companies to upgrade their connections to high speed broadband and invest in digital technologies.
Due to be launched in January 2014, the scheme will use events, online learning networks and one-to-one specialist support to highlight opportunities for businesses to use the latest technology to work innovatively and reach new markets, whilst reducing their carbon footprint.
The procurement process to appoint a business support provider with the specialist knowledge to develop the complex scheme starts this month (August) and the successful bidder will be announced in the autumn. More information will be available soon at http://www.sourcecambridgeshire.co.uk/
Small and medium sized businesses will be able to pre-register their interest in the scheme from November 2013 on the Connecting Cambridgeshire website.
Welcoming the announcement, Cambridgeshire County Councillor Ian Bates, Cabinet Member for Growth and Planning, said: “I am delighted that Connecting Cambridgeshire has secured this extra funding, which is a testament to the strength of the partnership and its determination to boost Cambridgeshire’s economy by supporting local businesses and creating opportunities for growth. We know it is vital that our small and medium companies, many of which are in rural areas or home-based, get the support they need to make the most of fast-changing technology so they can compete and thrive.”
Councillor Marco Cereste, Leader of Peterborough City Council, said: “Making sure businesses in Peterborough can access superfast broadband is critical as the city continues to grow. We also need to ensure that our businesses are making the most of digital opportunities available to them, which is why I am delighted that we have won funding to help businesses get online and benefit from the latest broadband-enabled technologies, allowing them to reach new markets and increase productivity. This of course will create new jobs in Peterborough which will provide a further boost to our economy.
“I know Peterborough businesses are keen to use the latest digital technology and this complements our investment in the roll-out of superfast broadband which is now underway.”
Councillor Sarah Brown, Cambridge City Council executive councillor for community wellbeing, said: “Cambridge has earned international recognition as the keystone of a regional hi-tech economy. With this funding we can maintain and build on the global reputation our region already commands.”
Darren Hill, Business Development Manager for East Cambridgeshire District Council, said: “East Cambridgeshire District Council is excited by the opportunities that this additional funding will bring to our local business community. Not only can households and businesses across our district look forward to superfast broadband, local businesses will also now be able to access additional support to maximise the benefits from the latest digital technology. The District Council has ambitious plans for jobs and employment growth as part of our draft Local Plan and this announcement will help us to provide the supportive environment for businesses to succeed.”
Councillor Chris Seaton, Fenland District Council’s deputy leader and portfolio holder responsible for the economy, said: “This extra funding is excellent news – it’s something we’ve been pressing hard for. Improved access to digital technologies that can improve businesses’ productivity and profitability is absolutely essential if they are to thrive and create more jobs. It will be of particular benefit to smaller businesses and those operating in rural areas like Fenland. They will welcome the additional support that is coming on stream.”
Councillor Jason Ablewhite, Executive Leader of Huntingdonshire District Council, said: “Huntingdonshire is a district that is set to grow significantly in the next few years. Access to superfast broadband is vital to support our growing businesses, new communities and encourage new investment. I welcome this new funding which will deliver this essential service to the district.”
Councillor Nick Wright, South Cambridgeshire District Council’s cabinet member for economic development, said: “We are very committed to helping businesses set up and thrive in the district and this funding boost is excellent news all around. Good quality and fast broadband is one of the issues our residents and businesses talk to us about most frequently and the partnership is aiming to resolve frustrations and give our local companies a real boost.”