Businesses urged to apply for ERDF grants to help them export 

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Warwickshire businesses are being urged to apply for a specialist funding stream that aims to help them export for the first time or expand their overseas markets.

The West Midlands SME International Growth Project (SME IGP), funded via the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), has approved 220 grants since January 2017, providing match-funded grants worth more than £500,000.

SMEs (small-medium sized enterprises) have just eight months left to apply for a grant, with the deadline set for applications on 31 March 2019.

European Business Solutions (EBS), which is based at Warwick Science Park, received match-funding of £2,000 for a fact-finding mission to Argentina and Chile after receiving more enquiries from Latin American companies that wanted to open a base in the UK.

Martin Williams, founder and MD of EBS, said: “It’s very easy to email but nothing will replace actually speaking someone face to face if you want to do business with them. When we found out that we had got the ERDF funding, it helped us to make the decision about developing new markets and go out there. It was still a reasonable financial commitment for a small company as ours but we knew we should go for it.”

After meeting with companies, EBS signed up firms in the legal, investment, fashion, film and retail sectors to help them open in the UK.

“We got our money back within six weeks and believe we will reap up to ten times that of the cost of the trip,” said Martin. “Not only that, we have helped to create inward investment in the UK, which means employment opportunities and people paying taxes.”

The project is delivered by West Midlands Chambers of Commerce (WMCC) and funded as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014 – 2020.

Allen Matty, managing director of WMCC, said success such as that experienced by Earthbound is being replicated across the region, thanks to their applications for match-funded grants of between £1,000 and £3,000.

Funding has also provided businesses with the chance to access sector expert events, such as Meet the Buyer, invitations to market visits to investigate potential business openings, and trade shows.

“We’ve seen some extremely positive results and business wins from local companies that have been able to take advantage of this grant scheme,” he said.

“With just eight months left of the ERDF funding scheme, we’d encourage any SME in the area that wants to export or grow overseas to consider applying for it. It’s not just a cash boost, it’s also about and accessing the specialist support they need and minimising the risks in overseas markets.”

SME IGP aims to support 550 businesses in the West Midlands with business advice, support, grants, and with job creation.

Any business interested in applying for an ERDF SME IGP grant should complete an enrolment form at http://bit.ly/ERDFSMEIGP or get in touch with the team on erdf@wmchambers.co.uk or 0121 607 1770.