Not only is March Growth Hub Month, but the Liverpool City Region’s Local Growth Hub has now been up-and-running for a year. Mark Basnett, Managing Director at the Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership, explains what it means for the region, how it fits into the wider UK economy and its achievements so far… A healthy business base with strong business growth is crucial to increasing the economic performance and competitiveness of the Liverpool City Region overall. The City Region’s Growth Strategy ‘Building our Future’ identifies a coordinated approach to enterprise and to tackling the challenges we face in our region around business density, growth and employment. Liverpool City Region has the potential to become one of the best places in Europe to start, grow and invest in companies through the development of a dynamic innovation and enterprise ecosystem. To aid this, the Local Growth Hub is helping businesses to find their way through the complicated landscape of business support services, both in the public and commercial sectors. We work closely with all local business organisations to engage with and support our diverse business community through a coherent and comprehensive brokerage service – helping businesses to become better informed consumers. Support The Growth Hub is helping to drive growth in key sectors and increase business density and female entrepreneurship levels. It supports all businesses across the City Region encouraging the use of commercial support. However, where we’ve identified gaps in business support we are working with partners to fill those gaps. Through our partners there are now simple avenues to follow for startups, high-growth businesses, those looking for access-to-finance or to export and more. We’re constantly evaluating where the market weakness is and how it can be addressed. Over the next year, there will be a focus on high-growth business and scale-ups, which will deliver significant growth to the City Region economy. Fundamentally, we’re committed to developing a new, more strategic approach to business support, with three objectives: simplification, commercialisation and coherence. The Local Growth Hub is simplifying the market, allowing businesses to access support quickly. We’re making the best use of a wide array of private sector business support suppliers and aligning public sector interventions round the commercial principles of this marketplace. We’re also directing investments of public money to where it can best contribute to the strategic economic objectives of the Liverpool City Region. Opportunities Both the Liverpool City Region Growth Strategy and the national Industrial Strategy are focused on developing the economy in our growth sectors. This will continue over the next 12 months, with a renewed focus on developing scale-up businesses in the City Region. These businesses can generate immediate growth in both gross value added and employment. We also anticipate raising the profile of the commercial sector with the Growth Hub having been developed on a commercial model that means less reliance on public sector support. The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund is now live and one of several products available that businesses can access to deliver their growth potential, access to finance across these products will be a large part of the Growth Hub over the coming months. Liverpool City Region is integral to the Northern Powerhouse, which is why the City Region LEP is an official partner of the government’s Northern Powerhouse programme, and the prospects for our City Region and the North of England are outstanding. We’ll only realise our assets and opportunities and drive our productivity and competitiveness to their potential by capitalising on the growth sectors we have that are of genuine strength and economic opportunity. Those include advanced manufacturing, health and life science, low carbon energy, high performance computing and digitization, maritime and logistics, visitor economy and financial and professional services. Roles The Local Growth Hub has a vital role to play in all of this, by ensuring businesses are fully engaged in determining how best to drive the Northern economy forward. The recently launched £400-million Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund will provide valuable support to our business community, particularly those with high-growth potential. We’ll work closely with the appointed fund managers and existing providers to ensure there is a simple joined up approach for business, working through the Local Growth Hub. Growth hubs play an important role in the economy particularly in times of economic uncertainty. They are designed to support all businesses, but they have a particular focus on supporting the SME market. As we know, SMEs are the driver of our UK economy and growth hubs can ensure they get access to both national and local support to help them grow and succeed.