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Isobel Brown of SWLEP

Innovation plans could create 1,500 new jobs

Plans to make Swindon and Wiltshire an innovation hub could create 1,500 new jobs, according to new figures from the Local Enterprise Partnership.

Back in April, Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership unveiled a ‘bold vision’ to make the county one of the most innovative regions in the UK.

And this week the body said it had ‘clarified its strategy’ for the European Structural and Investment Fund, and invited local businesses to engage with the plans.

A European Union-funded programme, the European Structural and Investment Fund (ESIF) will make a significant contribution to Swindon and Wiltshire’s ambition to become a world-renowned hive of innovation.

One of a number of major projects that are key to the future economic prosperity of Swindon and Wiltshire, the ESIF programme will target revenue investment primarily on social objectives, such as improving people’s skills and helping businesses grow.

SWLEP says the £78 million investment would create more than 1,500 jobs, help 2,500 businesses to innovate and support over 9,000 people to progress in their career.

The strategy focuses on a number of opportunities highlighted within Swindon and Wiltshire, which include growing key sectors in the economy: Military-civilian integration, support for SMEs, low carbon development and social inclusion.

And as these priority areas are so closely linked, SWLEP has announced that the activities planned for the ESIF programme have been grouped under four headings.

SME Growth

The ESIF programme will deliver business support and start-up services (building on the Gateway for Growth pilot), rural tourism support and supply chain development for the food and drink industry.

It is anticipated that this will improve Swindon and Wiltshire’s GVA per head, increase the employment rate to 80 percent and increase both employment and innovation in the food and drink supply sector.

Innovation for Sustainable Growth

The ESIF programme will deliver innovation for smart specialisation, innovation for Low Carbon Economy and innovation for Natural capital.

The benefits of these activities will include more people with higher level skills being able to get a job with innovative SMEs, more collaboration between SMEs and job creation in rural areas.

Skills for Growth

Activities will help increase the proportion of Swindon and Wiltshire’s workforce that has a degree level qualification and help create opportunities for everyone to develop new skills.

More than a quarter (26 percent) of employers in the LEP area report a shortage of skilled workers, so to tackle this, ESIF activities will aim to bridge the local skills gap and raise aspirations/attainment amongst young people.

Skills for Inclusion

Activities will help people on low wages realise their potential, utilise the potential of older workers, support younger workless people and promote social inclusion.

This will remove barriers to progression for those ‘trapped’ in low wage work, increase the skills level of older workers, and improve employment levels among young people.

Isobel Brown, director of partnership and programmes at SWLEP, said: “Government decision on the funding is expected in Autumn 2014. The commissioning stage of the ESIF programme will then take place, with project delivery anticipated to begin in Summer 2015.

“Until then, the LEP is urging businesses in Swindon and Wiltshire to get involved and take advantage of the opportunities the ESIF strategy presents.”

Details are available on the SWLEP website at