Lord Heseltine’s Top Five Tips
The Regional Growth Fund has now been through four competitive rounds and in each of them the Independent Advisory Panel which I chair has sifted through the hundreds of applications that were made. I thought I’d share my experiences of being on the panel, to help those of you who are interested in bidding to Round 5.
The RGF is all about the public and private sector working together. What we want to see is a relatively small amount of RGF money helping to unlock large amounts of private sector investment. So leverage is key.
Throughout the four rounds of the RGF the ratio of private to public investment has been 5.5:1.
My panel and I are not just interested in the amount of private money, but also the quality of it. Sources such as company funds or guaranteed bank lending are far more attractive to us than future profits or unsecured lending.
2. Pace of delivery
The areas where the RGF is having an impact need private sector growth now, not in a few years’ time; projects and programmes that can unlock investment and create jobs quickly are far more attractive than longer term schemes. Speed is of the essence.
Plans that are clearly well developed and ready to go stand out from those where a lot more preparatory work is required. Programmes, for instance, that include a pipeline of SMEs for support are a better prospect for investing in than those without one.
3. Value for money
RGF money is not there for projects and programmes that would have started anyway without Government support. My panel are very astute at knowing which companies could probably go ahead with their ideas using private funding alone.
Bidders need to demonstrate that the RGF money they have asked for is the minimum amount to allow the project to proceed. My panel often concludes that individual schemes could and would proceed with a lower level of, or indeed no Government funding.
4. Do the right thing
The RGF is all about helping companies in the right sectors to grow and diversify. My panel and I love nothing more than to help firms of all sizes to move in to new markets or to help them export.
It’s all about supporting extra jobs in the UK. So we are not interested in helping one company grow at the expense of another or one region to benefit to the detriment of a neighbouring region.
Equally, speculative commercial development ideas are not looked upon favourably by my panel. Job creation in growth sectors are an attractive proposition for Government support.
5. Get advice
One of the benefits of a competitive process is that there are plenty of people to speak to and lessons to be learned. So talk to someone.
Whether that is by talking to previous bidders about their experiences, or local business support networks, a critical friend is always a good thing.
In addition, officials in the RGF Secretariat offer Expression of Interest (EoI) meetings across the country when a round is open. The majority of successful bids in Rounds 3 and 4 had an EoI meeting beforehand and more regional events than ever are being arranged for Round 5, so you need to make the most of the opportunity.