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Somerset Council Business Newsletter April 2024

Somerset Council

Business
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11 April 2024

Latest News

Brand New Firepool Centre for Digital Innovation Opens this May

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This is an exciting time for innovative businesses in the digital economy as the brand new purpose-built Firepool Centre for Digital Innovation (FCDI) is set to officially open its doors in Taunton in May.

FCDI has been made possible after Somerset Council successfully secured more than £7.3m of external ring-fenced funding including European Union’s European Regional Development Fund (£1.69 million) in addition to HM Government’s Getting Building Funding (£5.45 million) and Growth Deal funding (£235k).

The purpose-built Centre provides a hub for innovative businesses in the digital economy, offering brand new, grade A office suites, co-working, collaboration and event space over four floors.

  • A Spotlight on Digital Tech event is being held at the Centre by the Heart of the South West Growth Hub on 23 April, from 9am to 1pm – reserve your place today.
  • Preview tours of the Centre are taking place on the hour from 3pm to 6pm on 25 April, and from midday to 3pm on 26 April 2024, so prospective tenants and users can view the workspace and facilities on offer. Please email fcdi@somerset.gov.uk to book your place.
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Somerset Green Business Grants – Round 2 Now Open

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Round 2 of the Green Business Grants has just been launched, with applications to be submitted by the end of April.

Grants of between £2,500 and £25,000 are available to support Somerset micro and SME businesses to take forward measures to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions. The grant can fund up to 50% of total eligible project costs, with the remainder funded by the applicant.

The grant application process will be in 2 stages, an initial Eligibility Check followed by a Full Application with supporting evidence that should include an independent energy audit and Sustainability Plan. These should detail a carbon/energy baseline and actions to reduce carbon emissions.

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Successful Somerset ‘Go Green Scheme’ Returns

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This is a separate initiative from the Green Business Grants which has been extended until the end of March 2025. Go Green offers free energy audits and support to develop individual, costed and prioritised sustainability plans.
In 23/24, 50 businesses were visited with an energy audit completed and Sustainability Plan developed.

An additional 100 businesses will be supported in 24/25. Businesses can register now!

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New Net Zero Innovation Feasibility Grants for UK Materials and Manufacturing

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This is a £1m fund for innovative feasibility projects that help UK materials and manufacturing to become net zero and resource efficient.

Applications need to come from a partnership led by one of the following organisations registered in the UK: a business of any size, an academic institution or a research and technology organisation, a charity, not-for-profit or public-sector organisation. Partnerships must include at least one micro business or SME (Small or Medium sized Enterprise)

Your project must relate to one or both of the following themes:

  • Resource-efficient materials and manufacturing
  • Sustainable bio-based materials and biomanufacturing

Your project’s total costs must be between £50,000 and £100,000. Funding applications close on 29 May 2024.

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Flexible AI Upskilling Fund Pilot: Expression of Interest

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The Flexible AI Upskilling Fund pilot scheme will support SMEs in the Professional and Business Services Sector by match-funding AI skills training for their employees.

Evidence shows that a lack of AI skills in businesses is hindering AI adoption, in part due to low investment in AI upskilling in UK businesses, particularly in smaller companies.

New £6.4 million of grant funding for the scheme is available in the financial year 2024-25. Funding will be allocated through a competitive application exercise to be run in May 2024.

Find out more

Somerset Tourism Awards Now Open For Entries

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The Bristol, Bath and Somerset Tourism Awards are now live and open for entries for 2024/25.

The awards are free for tourism and hospitality businesses to enter and every participant gets feedback. Last year’s winners told us they were invaluable; great for business, staff morale, recruitment and networking.

There are awards for accommodation, food and drink, wedding and business venues, unsung heroes, dog friendly, age friendly, new business, accessibility, sustainability as well as events, experiences, visitor information, attractions and new for this year is an International Tourism Award. Businesses are encouraged to enter as many categories as they believe may be eligible for their enterprise.

If you would like help with your entry we are running a series of online workshops but places are limited so make sure you book soon.

This is your chance to raise your profile and get rewarded for all your hard work. Showcase your hard work and success and make sure to submit your entry before the closing deadline, Sunday 23 June.

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Storm Henk: Farm Land Recovery Update

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The Farming Recovery Fund which launched 9 April 2024, is now live to support farmers who suffered uninsurable damage to their land due to flooding from Storm Henk, earlier this year. The Rural Payments Agency (RPA) are writing to all eligible farmers who can access grants of between £500 and £25,000 to cover recultivation costs, outlining the support available to them through the fund and how they can

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Unlocking Success with the Future Farming Resilience Fund UK

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Are you a farmer navigating the ever-evolving landscape of agriculture in England?

The Future Farming Resilience Fund UK is here to guide you toward sustainable success. Here’s why you should consider signing up:

  • Free Expert Advice
    The fund provides free business support to farmers and land managers during the critical transition period. If you’ve received direct payments since October 2022, you’re eligible! Whether you’re considering crop diversification or optimising your livestock management, expert advisers are here to assist.
  • Navigating Change
    Understand how farming in England is changing. The fund helps you identify necessary adaptations for your business. From climate-smart practices to digital innovations, we’ve got you covered.
  • Tailored Support
    Choose from one-to-one consultations, farm visits, or workshops. Our trusted advisers offer personalised recommendations. Need to fine-tune your business model? We’ve got strategies to help you.

Visit the Farming Resilience Fund page for details and explore the list of trusted organisations providing free advice in your area.

In Somerset SBA CIC provide free workshops, help and advice with Future Farming Resilience to help farmers navigate the agricultural transition.

Questions? Dial the Defra helpline at 0345 933 5577 if you encounter technical difficulties.

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Somerset Businesses Called on to Support High Blood Pressure Campaign

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In Somerset, one in three people with high blood pressure don’t know they have it. Known as the silent killer, high blood pressure is quick and simple to diagnose and to treat.

NHS Somerset, together with Somerset Council is launching their biggest ever campaign ‘Take the Pressure Off’ with the aim of testing thousands of residents to increase awareness and early detection of high blood pressure. They are inviting workplaces across Somerset to be part of the campaign and have several options available that may suit your workplace:

  • Free workplace events – blood pressure testing sessions at your workplace, including healthier lifestyle support – for businesses with 30 or more staff
  • Training and support for your staff – to become ‘Blood Pressure Community Connectors’ – ambassadors for promoting the importance of blood pressure testing

The free testing offer has already been taken up by a number of businesses in Somerset already and we are generally seeing around a third of people getting higher than normal readings. This focussed initiative means we are able to offer follow up testing support to understand a person’s average reading and signpost to further intervention and advice if needed.

Many people will have no symptoms of high blood pressure, but it can lead to serious health issues like heart disease, stroke, and kidney problems if left unchecked.

For more information or to get you or your workplace involved email: bloodpressure@somerset.gov.uk

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Business Support

Somerset Business Hub: Recruitment & Retention of Employees – A Game of 2 Halves

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Having difficulty hiring and retaining staff? Come and join us for a free webinar on Thursday 18 April, 10:00-11:00. ‘Recruitment and retention of employees – a game of 2 halves.’

Growing a business involves hiring people to achieve your goals, and attracting the right talent is key to success. With average costs of up to £4530 per employee, getting the right people who will stay and help you grow your business is vital in today’s market.

HR expert and organisational coach Karen Watkins will cover everything you need to know about attracting and engaging the ideal employees for your business. Karen has extensive experience in working with SMEs in sectors including professional services, retail and hospitality, manufacturing, engineering and construction.

Key takeaways from this session:

  • Understand the value of storytelling to attract your perfect employees
  • How to write a winning job advert, that attracts the right people to your team
  • Learn why you should keep your hiring process punchy
  • The role of successful onboarding for new employees
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Employment and Skills

Get Ready for Spring with Skills Bootcamps

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Somerset and Dorset Skills Bootcamps are working with businesses this Spring to upskill their employees. Skills Bootcamps are training programmes designed to deliver quality, flexible training over a minimum of 60 tutor led hours up to a maximum of 16 weeks. Skills Bootcamps can deliver a wide variety of training to suit todays employers, not only that but training is up to 90% funded (depending on the size of your business).

Our training providers are from across Somerset and Dorset and have already helped learners reskill in the HGV sector, to help ease the shortage of lorry drivers and are providing customised Leadership and Management, CAD, and Lean Electrical Engineering Skills Bootcamps based on employer need.

If you would be interested in hearing how Skills Bootcamps can support your business by helping to design and deliver a bespoke programme to meet your skills needs. Why not discuss this opportunity today by dropping a line to skilllsbootcamps@somerset.gov.uk

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Business Events

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