The North East has been invited to have its say on a £460m cashpot which could create thousands of jobs in the region over the next six years.
The North East Local Enterprise Partnership (North East LEP) was allocated the European Structural and Investment Funding (ESIF) for 2014-2020 earlier this year.
It will now work with the North East Leadership Board (Durham, Northumberland and Tyne & Wear’s local authorities) on economic growth, looking at areas where the money can help communities and businesses to create jobs.
“This is an exciting opportunity for the North East, and consultation with local people is a central plank of our strategy. They are the people who know best how these funds should be invested to underpin future confidence in the North East,” said Paul Woolston, chair of the North East LEP.
Woolston added that the impact of the funding will shape infrastructure and innovation growth, support skills development including apprenticeships, and give SMEs access to finance for years to come.
He said: “We have the strongest of platforms on which to build with the evidence base from the Adonis Economic Review and the growing momentum towards a combined authority.
“We welcome participation and responses from all sectors as we clarify the final ESIF strategy.”
A draft ESIF strategy with five key objectives has been put together by the North East LEP, which will now begin a consultation process with local businesses, community and voluntary groups, authorities and business agencies until December this year.
Increasing levels of R&D and improving the commercialisation of innovation with particular focus on areas of smart specialisation;
Increasing entrepreneurship, number of start-ups, and level of trading, contributing to business growth;
Increasing the role of the low carbon and energy generation sector;
Improving employability and skills to overcome barriers preventing access to the labour market and progress within work;
Improving skills provision by matching it to economic opportunities and better meeting the needs of business, including skills provision at intermediate and high level.
The consultation document can be viewed online for the next five weeks at www.nelep.co.uk/european-funding and comments are welcomed. Workshops will also take place across the North East LEP area next month and during December.
The new ESIF programme combines the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF). It will also include part of the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD).
The online consultation period closes on Monday, December 2, 2013, with full consultation closing on Monday, December 9.
After this, the strategy will be finalised and presented to Government in January 2014. The North East LEP will use the ESIF funds towards local, national and European priorities for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth.