The initiative, known as the Business Hot House programme, is offering to support more than 1,000 firms – large and small – and 500 start-up entrepreneurs to improve productivity and innovation.
The multimillion-pound grant was awarded by the European Regional Development Fund to develop businesses in the Coast to Capital Local Economic Partnership area, which covers West Sussex and parts of East Sussex and East Surrey.
Business Hot House manager Gareth Sear, from the University of Chichester, said the programme will help to create a strong economic ecosystem in the LEP region through imaginative business partnerships, enterprise education, and support for start-ups.
He added: “This is one big programme of support led by several partners – the University, specialised business support providers, and local authorities – which will provide an all-encompassing programme of expertise. I urge business no matter how big or small to register an interest.”
The project, which is open for applications, provides opportunities for established small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to strengthen their business practices and make them more profitable – but will also look to help start-ups develop new and existing ideas.
It will specifically focus on improving business leaders’ knowledge to increase productivity and innovation, which are areas highlighted by Coast to Capital as barriers to growth.
Support will be delivered through workshops, bootcamps, peer-to-peer groups, and business mentoring sessions led by academics and experts from the University of Chichester, among others.
Jonathan Sharrock, Chief Executive of the Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “We are delighted that the Business Hot House Programme has been awarded a significant portion of the Coast to Capital LEP area’s European Regional Development Fund allocation to help support the growth of small to medium sized businesses in our area.
“Our economic plan has recognised developing business support as a key strategic priority and this scheme will help local businesses and the regional economy to flourish."
Funding for the Hot House programme comes from a £5.5million grant from European Regional Development Fund, which will be match-funded by SMEs in the Coast to Capital LEP.
A further £800,000 has been pledged by the project’s strategic partners: the Princes Trust, West Sussex County Council, Brighton and Hove City Council, and the Greater Brighton Economic Board.
Other benefactors comprise Mole Valley District Council, Lewes District Council, as well district and borough councils Adur and Worthing, Arun, Chichester, Crawley, Horsham, and Mid Sussex.
Professor Catherine Harper, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Chichester, said: “We are determined to drive the economic regeneration and development of our region through innovation and by upskilling businesses and entrepreneurs in our community.
“The business expertise available and facilities at the University – including our new £35million Tech Park – makes us the ideal authority to roll out the Business Hot House project to more enterprises which will only strengthen economic and social cohesion across the south of England.”
The project will be delivered by the University of Chichester Business School alongside Sussex Innovation Centre, Eastbourne and District Enterprise Agency, Brighton and Hove City Council, WSX Enterprise, Princes Trust, and YTKO Ltd.
Approval for the grant money was given by the Ministry of Housing, Communities, and Local Government (MHCLG), the accountable body with the UK government, to support the growth objectives of the region.