Paul Houghton, Chair of the Sheffield City Region’s Business Growth Board talks all things Growth Hub

It’s less than a year since the Growth Hub of the Sheffield City Region was launched to support local businesses. Due to work with 2,000 enterprises, it has already worked with 3,000 – and confidently expects that number to rise to 3,500 by the end of the full 12 months.

It’s quick and easy to get in touch with the Growth Hub, deliberately so. One phone number – 03330 00 00 39 – gets any caller on the road to exactly the right help. It might be a query about skills training, in-depth advisor support, or help with a start-up business or enterprise. It might be about help with finance.

Sheffield City Region’s economy has an output of more than £30 billion pounds per year and is home to approximately 52,000 businesses which have created and sustained approximately 700,000 jobs. The Growth Hub’s aims are to build on this base and create a stronger and bigger private sector that can compete in national and global markets.

Paul Houghton, Chair of the Business Growth Advisory Board, said: “We have a highly experienced team of specialists who have worked at director or managing director level in growing businesses across all sectors – sales and marketing, coaching, finance new product development etc. They are well tuned in to the needs of the regional business world and have a very straightforward approach.

“They take a holistic view and review a business in depth to really get to grips with what that enterprise needs to flourish, and how we can support them.

““And because we access a wide range of funding streams, and work in partnership with many other organisations across the region and nationally, and even internationally, we have a huge pool of knowledge and opportunity.”

There are approximately £50million worth of support initiatives available to businesses under the Growth Hub umbrella. This means that the range of companies getting expert help varies tremendously: Sheffield’s Sentinel Brewery received help with the cost of specialist stainless steel vats for the beers with which it is making a name for itself. Mitchells Accountants of Chesterfield had help with staff professional development.

The Growth Hub also co-ordinates a number of projects focussing on specific needs. An academic from either of the Sheffield universities can work with a company to iron out technical innovation issues: if help and advice is needed on exporting companies can apply for grants of up to £5,000. This can be for example for translation, trade missions, or perhaps exhibition material.

RISE, run in partnership with the universities, aims to increase graduate employment in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and to date has placed 70 graduates and worked with 200 businesses. It was singled out for praise in Theresa May’s Industrial Strategy: “We will work with local areas to test other approaches to closing the skills gap, which could include . . . new schemes to support the retention and attraction of graduates, potentially spreading innovative programmes like (the city region’s) RISE initiative, which places graduates in local SMEs.”

 Another fast-growing area of work is providing the specialist support new businesses need. This includes networking events, workshops, coaching and one-to-one mentoring. If businesses – or anyone else with a bright ideas and the potential for growth, they can progress to applying for three months of intensive support.

Mr Houghton added: “All in all there is a huge amount of support available in the Sheffield City Region, and businesses should get in touch to find out how they can benefit.

“Every business has a different need – our job is to point you in the right direction or to provide direct support.”

Case study

A healthcare company, which will create 100 jobs when it opens its new neurological and complex trauma rehabilitation centre in Sheffield shortly, has received business support and advice from the Growth Hub and a grant of £490,000 grant from the Regional Growth Fund (RGF), administered by the Sheffield City Region.

STEPS Rehabilitation has built a state-of-the art facility to deliver intensive therapy to people who have survived a stroke, spinal, brain, orthopaedic or other complex trauma.

The purpose-built development is designed to help adult patients reach their full rehab potential, and includes 23 bedrooms, a rehabilitation gym, a stainless-steel hydrotherapy pool and a café.

The company is also working with the RISE graduate recruitment programme.