Business support initiative the Lancashire Forum Creative has secured extra funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

The collaboration between the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and Lancaster University helps ambitious small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the region to grow with the aid of a supportive peer network and a programme of interactive workshops and masterclasses delivered by high-profile speakers.

UCLan launched the Lancashire Forum Creative programme as part of the Lancashire Forum in 2017 to meet the learning and development needs of the county’s 4,500 creative and digital businesses, which employ 36,000 people.

The programme is delivered across Lancashire as part of Boost; Lancashire’s business growth hub. It offers business leaders the space to step away from their working environment to develop themselves and their organisations. This is done with the help of the latest research and world-class academics from UCLan, with businesses also benefitting from the practical experience of peers.

The forum helps SMEs to become strategic and innovative in developing new products and achieving an increase in profits, through access to specialist expertise, collaboration opportunities and Think Tanks.

Elena Vasilieva, Lancashire Forum Creative Project Manager at UCLan, said: “We are situated in the Centre for SME Development and the team has over 25 years’ experience of designing and delivering development programmes tailored to the needs of SMEs. Over the last two years more than 360 businesses have attended the programme’s events and 73 businesses have successfully graduated from the six-month programme.”

Michelle Bondesio, Founder of Growth Sessions, received support through the programme. She said: “Joining Lancashire Forum Creative was a total game changer for me. I learned a vast amount through the workshops and from other attendees and it increased my confidence in my own skills and abilities immensely.”

Professor Sue Smith, Chair of UCLan’s Centre for SME Development, said: “Following an initial successful period of the forum, we’re thrilled to be given the chance to continue providing this support to even more creative and digital SMEs who are in a position to benefit from the programme. It’s a valuable opportunity for small business owners and leaders to collaborate and become part of a supportive community.

“As a University, we are passionate about developing small businesses, sharing our skills and expertise and helping them to grow and innovate, with fantastic results.

“The extension is not only a mark of success to date, but also demonstrates how important it has been to the county’s economic development, in addition to the creative and digital sector as a whole.”

The Lancashire Forum Creative is now recruiting for the upcoming six-month programme, which starts on May 9 with an induction event and Lego Serious Play Think Tank.

For more information about the Lancashire Forum Creative visit: https://www.uclan.ac.uk/business_at_uclan/lancashire-forum-creative.php

Pictured left to right in above image: Juliane Lowe, Project Co-ordinator, Lancashire Forum Creative, Laurie Smith, Innovation & Enterprise Director ERDF, Elena Vasilieva, Project Manager, Lancashire Forum Creative.

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