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A scale-up programme delivered by business experts at Edge Hill University has created hundreds of new jobs for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Lancashire.

The University’s SME Productivity and Innovation Centre (PIC) has helped 145 companies across the region to create more than 220 new jobs to date.

Professor Simon Bolton, Director of the SME PIC, said: “During an incredibly challenging period for the SME sector, our Innovation Sprint Programme has helped scores of businesses across Lancashire to emerge from the pandemic stronger.

“Our experts work closely with business leaders to identify their growth needs and the results of the programme speak for themselves, with more than 220 new roles created for employees in the region. We’re looking forward to continuing to build on this success to help maximise growth opportunities for SMEs in the region.”

The SME PIC’s Innovation Sprint Programme supports businesses in Lancashire and the Liverpool City Region to increase their competitiveness and resilience. On average, SMEs who complete the programme report a 29% increase in growth.

The programme, part-funded by European Regional Development Fund, helps SMEs to develop a growth strategy to improve their processes, maximise the use of business technologies, and re-define internal structures, roles and responsibilities.

Debbie Francis OBE, Chair of the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership, said: ”It’s great news to hear that the SME PIC’s Innovation Sprint Programme has helped so many SMEs increase their competitiveness and resilience in what has been a really challenging time. SMEs are the cornerstone of the Lancashire economy, and it is they who will be instrumental in enabling the county to realise its growth potential, both in terms of productivity and job creation.

“However, in an increasingly competitive landscape, small changes to business processes or the adoption of new technologies can make a huge difference to their ability to grow and create jobs.  Programmes such as this provide SMEs with invaluable guidance based on individual business need and growth ambitions.”

One Lancashire SME to benefit from the programme in 2021 is Colne-based cycling activities company Go Velo.

The company offers a diverse range of courses including cycling training, instructor training and a dedicated course for people with disabilities, as well as specialist equipment to ensure inclusive participation.

Kirsti Grayson

Kirsti Grayson runs Go Velo and is a qualified National Standards Instructor Trainer, British cycling ride leader and route planner.

Kristi said: “The support from SME PIC has been incredible. The programme has resulted in the employment of 30 members of staff, five of who are now employed full-time and permanent.

“In addition to the full-time permanent employees, all previous subcontracted staff are now employed under worker contracts.  The organisation has gone from strength to strength with our new instructor training arm exceeding targeted expectations.”

Professor Bolton added: “We are delighted to see the progress Go Velo has made towards reaching their scale-up objectives. The creation of so many new jobs is a significant achievement for Kirsti and her team and the new roles will play an integral part in supporting the business on its scale-up journey.

“In the year of COP26 and with the UK government’s sustainability agenda, we were pleased to support Go Velo’s scale-up plans and to contribute in such a positive way to the UK’s green economic growth.”

The SME PIC was launched in 2018 and received additional funding in 2020 for a further three years.

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