Boost for small businesses as OxLEP announces new programme for social enterprises and growing businesses

Pictured: Richard Byard, OxLEP
Richard Byard – OxLEP

OxLEP – the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership will support growing social enterprise sector and help businesses getting ready for growth

OxLEP Business, which supports SMEs in Oxfordshire has announced a new programme for two important parts of Oxfordshire’s economy: social enterprises and growing businesses.

The Escalate programme, which is funded by the European Regional Development Fund, will provide tailored packages for both type of business. It will help growing businesses to boost productivity and capitalise on opportunities. The growing number of social enterprises and businesses that are socially-driven businesses, will be assisted to build capacity and widen their opportunities.

“These two parts of the county’s economy are very different, but they are important and can both benefit from this targeted programme. said Helen Brind who manages SME support programmes at OxLEP. “What we want to ensure is that both social enterprises and growing businesses can access the type of support which will help them most.”

Each group will have access to tailored one-to-one support, workshops and grants of up to £25,000

Oxfordshire’s Growing Social Enterprises

According to Grant Hayward of OSEP, which is partnering with OxLEP to help social enterprises, the number of social, community and environmental enterprises offering services and facilities in Oxfordshire has grown significantly: “They are important to our economy and Escalate is helping by providing a network of six community hubs for socially conscious enterprises. These hubs will form a strong and vibrant network among socially-minded businesses in their communities and offer access to our resources.”

Helen Brind added: “We can always do more to support our social enterprises. There is a clear need in Oxfordshire to help them grow and prosper. Our new programme will provide access to a wide range of skills, networks, finance, advice and resources.”

Businesses Scaling Up for Growth 

Growing businesses and those expecting to grow will be supported in preparing to meet their future challenges and opportunities with confidence.

Nigel Tipple, Chief Executive at OxLEP said: “Our other target is to provide a boost to the fast-growing businesses to help them succeed. These scale-up companies can get help accessing finance and other support in a new package aimed at increasing their capacity to grow. These enterprises have the greatest potential to generate employment and wealth, but they experience specific challenges to achieve their potential.”

Oxfordshire has the highest growth rate in the country amongst its scale-up businesses. It also has one of the highest ‘five-year survival rates’ for small businesses anywhere in the UK. At almost 50% (49.3%), Oxfordshire is well ahead of the UK average for businesses reaching their 5th anniversary. It compares with a UK average of 44.1% [1].

Simon Biltcliffe – founder of Webmart talking at the Oxford Natural History Museum

Pictured: Simon Biltcliffe, Founder of Webmart

Recognising Small Business success

The new support programme was announced at an event, recognising the success of SMEs in the county. Held at Oxford University’s Natural History Museum, it was attended by businesses which had all received help from OxLEP Business since July 2016. Since then, the SME Elevate programme helped 1,037 companies and awarded over £200,000 in small match-funding grants for investment. Several of the businesses received awards for their achievements and the use they made of their Elevate support.

Helen Brind of OxLEP Business commented: “Too often the great ideas, enterprise and sheer hard work that goes into small businesses goes unnoticed. We’ve recognised their value with the these awards. It is inspiring to see the impact which our support for SMEs can make to their chances of success. With our new Escalate programme, we look forward to similar impacts amongst the social enterprises and growing business who’ll participate.”

The Escalate programme is run by OxLEP Business. It is the newest programme aimed at providing additional support for small and medium sized enterprises in Oxfordshire who are either social enterprises or growing businesses.

It is funded by the European Regional Development Fund. According to OxLEP the growth of community-based and ethically motivated enterprises is positive and can be important job creators if they have access to additional skills and resources.

For information about the Escalate programme:


OxLEP Business is the Growth Hub for Oxfordshire, part of the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (OxLEP). It helps businesses to navigate the complicated and often confusing business support landscape and find the support they need. It is currently funded by OxLEP, Oxfordshire’s Local Enterprise Partnership and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). There is additional funding for this programme from the European Regional Development Fund.

For more information:


OSEP is working with OxLEP Business to deliver the Escalate programme. It is a Community Interest Company founded by the Social Enterprise community in Oxfordshire with the support of Oxford Brookes University and The University of Oxford. It exists to support social enterprises, social entrepreneurs and purposeful businesses operating across the county. It is working with key stakeholders locally and nationally to develop the best possible support network and signposting available.

For more information:

[1] Source: Office for National Statistics