First cohort of projects to receive cash-injections from HS2 Business Funds announced

Close to £150,000 of Business and Local Economy Fund (BLEF) funding has been awarded to groups so far.

‘Connect Digbeth’, a project from the Initiative for Social Entrepreneurs CIC is the first in Birmingham to benefit from HS2’s Business and Local Economy Fund (BLEF). 

Buckinghamshire Business First is the first to receive funding from HS2 to support the ‘Visit Buckinghamshire Business Advisory Service (VBAS).

Over £1.9m has been awarded to local community projects since the HS2 Funds opened in February 2017.

The first recipients of the HS2 Business and Local Economy Fund (BLEF) have been announced, with two projects receiving close to £150,000. The Fund supports local businesses that are demonstrably disrupted by the construction of Phase One of the brand new high speed railway which is being built between London and the West Midlands.

Birmingham based Community Interest Company (CIC), the Initiative for Social Entrepreneurs, has been awarded £73,887 BLEF funding, the first grant in the West Midlands. ‘Connect Digbeth’ is a project that will support 50 social enterprises and third sector organisations near the new high-speed line.

The project aims to deliver one-to-one business advice and support that will focus on supporting organisations with contingency planning, restructuring of business plans, financial planning, brokering partnerships and joint working as well as new product design and service development to help businesses build sustainable networks that will continue to sustain and promote social enterprise development long after HS2 has become operational.

HS2 Minister Nusrat Ghani met with the Initiative for Social Entrepreneurs to understand the difference that the Funds are making to local people living and working along the route of HS2.

HS2 Minister Nusrat Ghani said:

HS2 will provide the backbone of our future rail network, improving vital connections between our cities and delivering better journeys for passengers. It is also boosting prosperity and driving forward economic growth, with 7,000 jobs already created and 2,000 businesses already winning work with the project.

Whilst we know there will be disruption as we deliver one of Europe’s biggest infrastructure projects, the Business and Local Economy Fund will aim to support affected businesses throughout the construction period, ensuring they share in the benefits.

I am delighted that the first projects have now received almost £150,000 of deserved investment, and I encourage more organisations to come forward to apply for a share of this significant funding.

Simon Veasey, Director of Business Development at Initiative for Social Entrepreneurs, said:  

Through our Connect Digbeth project delivery, we will build sustainable networks that will provide a long-term legacy in the locality, further developing the vibrant culture of independent enterprise and community activity in Digbeth. Initial feedback from our network of social enterprises and local businesses has been very encouraging and recognises the positive action taken by HS2 through the construction phase.

Funding has also been awarded to Buckinghamshire Business First who have received a cash-injection of £74,898 to support ‘Visit Buckinghamshire Business Advisory Service (VBAS)’ – a project that will support local tourism to increase visitors to the area by providing advice, guidance and support to tourism and retail businesses. The VBAS project will support local tourism businesses through a website, peer-to-peer support, workshops and networking events to help local businesses identify and understand potential areas for future development.

Philippa Batting, Managing Director of Buckinghamshire Business First, said:

The Visit Buckinghamshire Business Advisory Service (VBAS) is fulfilling a crucial role with its support of businesses within 5km of the HS2 rail line in Buckinghamshire. Helping businesses to be resilient in the face of any challenges, and to then flourish, is not just in the interests of those businesses, but of the wider community as well.

The support from the Business & Local Economy Fund (BLEF) enables VBAS to help businesses capitalise on the growth opportunities that HS2 creates, including applying for and winning contracts along the route.

Cathy Elliott, Independent Chair of CEF and BLEF, said:

It is great to see the Funds reach the mark of over £1.9 million awarded, especially by supporting early stage BLEF kick-starter projects. BLEF is available to support local economies that are demonstrably affected by the construction of HS2. I encourage other business communities near to the line of route to apply in partnership for funding.

Graham Duxbury, national CEO of Groundwork UK, said:

It’s exciting to see the first wave of BLEF projects receive funding to help support local businesses to thrive during the HS2 Phase One construction. We look forward to seeing more projects come to fruition and to see first-hand how the funding is greatly benefiting local communities.

A combined total of £45 million of government funding has been made available to local communities and businesses disrupted by the construction of Phase One and Phase 2a of HS2 through two schemes – the Community and Environment Fund (CEF) and Business and Local Economy Fund (BLEF). The Funds for Phase One, administered by community charity Groundwork UK, support urban and rural, community, environmental and business projects.

The visit coincided with the announcement that £1,920,426 has been awarded to local community projects since the HS2 Funds opened in February 2017.

A full list of projects that have been funded can be found on the HS2 Interactive Map.