Derby City Council is to launch a £5 million programme to assist businesses in the city innovate and expand, creating countless new jobs for the city.
The authority is promoting its Ascend programme included in the city’s coronavirus economic recovery strategy – devised to make sure that Derby can build back successfully following the COVID-19 pandemic. It will offer high-quality bespoke growth advice to business, as well as a £3m scale-up loan fund.
Ascend will be run with the help of the University of Derby and will support local companies to build up and implement growth plans and secure investment.
Luxury doughnut-maker Project D, which has recently created 100 jobs and moved right into a new bakery in Spondon, has been chosen to assist pilot the project and will receive expert support to further develop its business.
Councillor Chris Poulter, Leader of Derby City Council, said the purpose of the Ascend programme was to develop ‘an entrepreneurial eco-system’ in Derby: “You want to make our city a fantastic place to establish and grow a business, to create high-quality and sustainable jobs while, simultaneously, supporting and diversifying the local economy.
“Even though it is vital that, as part of our recovery strategy, we use external investors such as SmartParc and St James Securities, whose developments will generate thousands of new jobs in Derby, it's equally important that we assist existing businesses to exploit their potential and create further employment.
“We'll bring in experts in leadership, business modelling, growth strategy, financial planning and technology development to nurture the ambitions in our brightest companies and help them achieve their potential.”
The Ascend team is seeking to support up to 50 businesses within the next two years and has appointed an expert panel – including senior officials in the council and university, business advisors, investors and entrepreneurs – to think about applications.
Businesses chosen to participate within the scheme will receive expert assistance to develop and implement their growth strategies, where appropriate prepare an investment case for equity investors or access loans for capital investment where traditional finance is not available.
The scheme will be available to businesses based within eight miles of Derby city centre who invest in creating jobs for Derby residents, graduates or students. It will officially launch later early in the year.
Max Poynton at Project D welcomed the launch of Ascend and said the initiative will be a major boost for companies like theirs, who had the potential to generate wealth and new employment opportunities.
He said: “We are delighted to happen to be chosen to pilot this scheme. In the last 12 months Project D continues to be able to evolve and expand in a significant pace and we are now delivering our doughnuts across Britain.
“We are still enormously ambitious and wish to continue on this trajectory, so we will really benefit from receiving expert advice. This scheme will mean we can use some specialist advisors, like a production and supply chain specialist, to help us grow and scale the company in a sustainable way.
“We all know that to be successful long term we have to implement the correct strategies and procedures now, so that we develop a strong operational foundation for future growth. It’s thrilling and we hope that Project D will become a household name across the UK, otherwise the world.”
David Williams, chairman of law practice Geldards and deputy chair of the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership, has been appointed to the Ascend selection panel.
He added: “Once we look to move past the pandemic and to a brighter future, I'm delighted to be involved in the Ascend initiative to ensure Derby and the wider region can build back stronger from COVID-19
“It’s very important we support Derby businesses to recuperate and unlock their possibility to secure investment and create sustainable growth for the local economy.”
Derby County Football Club owner Mel Morris has also been appointed as an Ascend ambassador, and said that the initiative would be a positive move for the city: “Ascend delivers a unique combination of expertise and resources designed to support Derby businesses grow and realise their full potential.
“I’m delighted to support such a positive initiative, that proactively drives business success, creates new high-quality jobs and build a stronger, more diverse local economy.”
The University of Derby can help deliver learning and development within businesses chosen to take part in the programme.
Professor Kamil Omoteso, Pro Vice-Chancellor Dean of the College of Business, Law and Social Sciences at the University of Derby, said: “We are very pleased to be involved in this initiative and also to be able to provide support to local business owners.
“As a member of Derby’s Economic Recovery Task Force, we take seriously the responsibility we have as a university to work with our city as it recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.
“It is crucial that businesses get the chance to access support so that they can achieve their maximum potential and thrive, assisting to drive forward the regeneration in our city.”
The Derby economic recovery strategy, which Ascend is a part, has three core aims – to stimulate business and investor confidence in the city, diversify the local economy and let decarbonisation.
Other major initiatives within the city’s economic recovery strategy include:
- Supporting the introduction of the £300 million SmartParc food campus around the former Celanese site, near Spondon, which will create up to 5,000 jobs;
- Developing a brand new 3,500-capacity city centre performance venue included in the £200 million redevelopment of the Becketwell area by Leeds-based St James Securities, inside a scheme which will create more than 2,000 jobs;
- Declaring the city’s ambition to become a centre for future fuels technology and supporting the establishment of the new £15 million Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre at Infinity Park;
- Creating the innovative Derby Market Place al fresco dining experience to support local hospitality businesses.