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European Funding Helps Thousands of Businesses Across the Region

22 September 2008
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Since 2004, more than 5,000 individuals and over 3,100 businesses in the South East benefited from over £10 million worth of funding from the European Social Fund (ESF) through SEEDA co-financing.

Twenty-five projects from across the region were directly funded by ESF through the South East England Development Agency’s (SEEDA) second ESF co-financing programme (2004-2008), which helped businesses meet skills shortages and improve competitiveness and productivity.

SEEDA’s Executive Director, Smart Growth, John Parsonage said: "SEEDA is very pleased to have been able to use ESF co-financing to help make such a difference to small businesses and individuals in the region. SEEDA is now looking to the future and is working with new providers throughout the South East to deliver projects which address skills shortages in SMEs as well as providing support for unemployed individuals seeking to start their own businesses".

A high profile dissemination and networking event was held on Tuesday 16 September 2008 bringing together key partners and providers to demonstrate how SEEDA has helped the region get the most out of European funding through co-financing. Speakers included Elizabeth Holt, from the European Commission’s London office, and Ken Lambert, Head of England ESF Managing Authority in ESF Division at DWP.

For more information on ESF Co-financing please visit the SEEDA website

Case Study: WEBMART UK

EEF South, which delivers the Manufacturing Advisory Service in the South East, received nearly £1,000,000 of funding to pilot the application of Lean principles (reduction of waste and continuous improvement) over the whole of an SME rather than restricting it to the shop floor. Improving the efficiency of the service departments will improve on time delivery, reduce overhead costs and improve the image of the company.

An example of a company which has been helped by EEF South is WEBMART UK, based in Bicester, Oxfordshire, a print management company offering bespoke printing services throughout the UK and Europe. With expertise in leaflet, brochure, booklet, point of sale and catalogue printing. Simon Biltcliffe, Managing Director, understands fully the competitive nature of the printing industry and continually challenges his business and employees to offer the best possible service to all clients. Simon’s understanding of the tools and techniques of Lean and the elimination of non-value adding activities from business processes has been a key driver to the organisations success. With this in mind, Simon saw the Service Step Change through Lean as a programme which would help complement his approach.

The programme undertaken by WEBMART involved a cross functional team who had little or no previous knowledge of Lean Office philosophies. The programme objective was to ensure that the staff employed at WEBMART was equipped with the same tools, techniques, knowledge and understanding which would help them to achieve an ever improving business performance.

The team spent most of the time on the project in assessing a specific process which they had identified using the tools and techniques they had learnt. The benefit being that as the team are involved in the day to day processes, they have an excellent knowledge of the issues within the process and potential solutions moving forward.

Simon says:"We have a successful business growing at 40% a year (currently £26m turnover with 25 people) and much of this has been due to the training that EEF South, ESF & SEEDA have given the team in understanding the most effective way of working through the Lean programme."

Case Study: University of Greenwich

Another example of project is the University of Greenwich which was awarded just under £100,000 for the Gender and the Labour Marker research project to identify barriers which prevent women from making a full contribution to the Labour Market in the SEEDA region, focusing particularly on the advanced manufacturing, care, ICT, pharma-bio and financial services sectors. The key output was be a three-year action plan containing practical recommendations to address gender stereotyping, segregation and discrimination in the South East Labour Market.

This action plan helped to formulate the subsequent specification against which Business Link Solutions were awarded £338,000 for the South East Women’s Mentoring Network. The project established a regional network of trained mentors and coaches, to provide a comprehensive and tailored portfolio of high quality mentoring/coaching services for aspiring female leaders and managers. The project encouraged more women to progress into senior management and leadership roles within South East based businesses, through the development and wider promotion of a pool of positive role models and case studies and the widespread promotion of the network’s services.

Sonal Shah, one of the SE-WOMEN’s mentees, says that the project gave her someone to talk to in confidence about work and career related matters. It enabled her to recognise opportunities when they arose and through the project, she gained the confidence to address them. Sonal found a passion to develop in areas of work that she enjoyed and consequently now has a clearer career path. The Board of Directors recognised her increased confidence. At her next appraisal, she went prepared knowing what she wanted and where she wanted to be. Subsequently, after 6 years in the same role, she was promoted from Accounts Administrator to Finance Manager.



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