The West of England Combined Authority is committed to inclusive growth across our region, making sure everyone, whatever their background, has access to support where they need it most.
Below are some case studies from businesses and residents who have been supported by the West of England Combined Authority.
For more information on how we can support you or your business, please visit our business homepage.
Bristol-based Speechtools provides a fascinating range of tech tools to help people with healthcare needs – from vocal coaching to speech therapy for those with Parkinson’s disease. The company recently won the 2020 South West Medilink Award for Health Tech innovation.
It’s also a great example of how collaboration brings success. Speechtools has been working with Invest Bristol & Bath, the inward investment service of the West of England Combined Authority, to forge the way in HealthTech after Speechtool’s founder, Sam Brady, and her husband used networking to develop an app to help patients and speech therapists.
Sam said: “The HealthTech sector here is so exciting because it takes the research and the knowledge from health care and fuses it with the awesome tech scene that happens in the region. I don’t think we’d get that anywhere else. There is a really supportive network in the region, and people are willing to give their time to help you develop ideas or discover where the next funding round can come from.”
Creative Scale Up – Auroch Digital
Bristol-based independent development studio and games consultancy Auroch Digital joined WECA’s Creative Scale Up programme in January 2020. Since joining, it has secured a new publishing deal and taken on 15 new members of staff.
Dr Tomas Rawlings, Chief Executive of Auroch Digital, said: “The Creative Scale Up programme, particularly the mentoring process, was great – we were able to pick mentors targeting specific needs we have. We got direct support with business questions as they arose and that helped us deal with them and move forward.
“As a result, we’ve been able to advance some key areas of the company. We’ve landed one big publishing deal for a new IP game and are circling a second big project, and that mentoring advice has been part of the mix of positives getting us there. Information provided by the Creative Scale Up team also led us to a UWE Digital Innovation Fund grant.”
If you’re a creative businesses and want to find out more about the new business support programme, grant funds and the Creative Scale Up scheme, please visit our Growth Hub page.
Catering for new markets – Kinetic Kitchen
Business-owner Harry set up Ubley-based Kinetic Kitchen in 2014 to sell ketogenic drinks and snacks. Alongside non-executive director Alex, he saw the business grow through sales to retailers and their own coffee truck. The Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown changed all of that and meant that Kinetic Kitchen needed to change its business model to survive.
The West of England Combined Authority’s Growth Hub team worked with Kinetic Kitchen to set up and grow new online sales; helping them to develop their website through the Trading Better Online programme. The Accountancy Support programme also enabled the business to develop its long-term financial thinking. And Kinetic Kitchen benefitted from the Growth Hub’s business network across the catering and hospitality sector.
Alex said: “The Growth Hub provided lots of support, guidance and advice on how we could gear things up slightly differently in order to cater for a different type of market that now exists.”
Harry added: “They’ve given us that comfort and support to know what we need to do this year, next year and long term.
“The Growth Hub has been fantastic with the support it’s given for Kinetic Kitchen. The growth that we’ve seen as a business has to be lying hand in hand with the support we’ve been given.”
To find out more about how the Growth Hub could support you and your business to thrive, get in touch today at www.wearegrowth.co.uk.
WIDJET: Getting more women into Tech
Women into Digital Jobs, Education and Training (WIDJET) has worked with women across the region, providing digital skills and training from entry-level taster sessions through to high-level industry specified courses. Participants can take part in a range of skills courses, training or seminars designed directly with business needs in mind, with the aim of them securing jobs in digital roles.
It is a WECA project, funded by the Government’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport. In partnership with WECA, several organisations have been able to run courses for women across the West of England.
Boomsatsuma delivered a series of taster sessions and eight-week courses which were free to women and girls at the Engine Shed, Bristol. The sessions were set up to encourage and inspire women and girls to explore career possibilities in the creative and digital sectors.
As well as this, women have been securing new careers in coding and tech thanks to courses at Mayden Academy. The academy was set up by Bath-based health firm Mayden to run intensive training in coding, software development and project management for potential employees, benefiting Mayden and other local businesses.
Georgina, from Bristol, achieved the career change she was looking for by securing a job in tech after completing a WIDJET course with Mayden Academy. She said: “This is probably the best thing that has ever happened to me – being able to do this course and go from not being fulfilled and worrying about my finances for the rest of my life. It’s not just giving you the course and giving you the skills – it is giving us the ability to be independent for the rest of our lives and actually have enough money to do more of the things that we enjoy.”
CASE STUDY: Growth Hub – Bailey Balloons, Bristol
Bailey Balloons is based in Bristol and run by husband-and-wife team, Clive and Jo Bailey. Their balloons are a familiar sight in the skies across the West of England. Covid-10 and national lockdowns have had a major impact on the business, reducing bookings by 90%.
Jo got in touch with our West of England Growth Hub to find out what support was available to help them survive and navigate the new business landscape. She said: “It’s been a really challenging year. The Growth Hub helped our business at a time when, during lockdown, I felt that no-one was listening to us. I just think they’ve been brilliant in so many ways and supporting so many companies like us.”
Jo worked with one of our Growth Hub enterprise executives, who signposted her to grant funding available. The Growth Hub team also helped her to tap into local business networks for ongoing support. Jo added: “To other entrepreneurs I would say please do get in touch with the Growth Hub. They’ve been invaluable to us.”
To find out more about how the Growth Hub could support you and your business to thrive, get in touch today at www.wearegrowth.co.uk
Future Bright – Hannah
When Hannah’s employer put her on furlough during the Covid-19 pandemic, she decided it was time to rethink work. She chose to look for a new role that would allow her to use her recent teaching qualification but lacked confidence in her interview skills.
Hannah heard about our Future Bright service from a family friend and got in touch. She worked with career progression coach Helen Jones to develop her job application and interview skills and grow her confidence.
Hannah said: “Future Bright are professional, kind and helpful. There is no judgement and as long as you put in the work and have a positive attitude, they really will help you reach any goals you have.
“I have had a fantastic time with Helen, who has been so supportive and kind to me. We worked together through phone calls and email which has allowed for a brilliant amount of guidance and support. By having practice with Helen for interview skills, I know I can carry those abilities wherever I go and know that I can shine!”
Hannah, from South Gloucestershire, has secured a new job in a local school and is planning to develop her skills further by enrolling on courses in primary education and British Sign Language.
She said: “With Future Bright I have become a more confident person which has reflected in my work life and day-to-day life. I will always be thankful to Future Bright for helping me reach my dream job.”
Case study: Local Energy Scheme – Ambitious Lawrence Weston
WECA has invested £500,000, through the Local Energy Scheme, in a new wind turbine in Avonmouth. The project was set up by local charity Ambitious Lawrence Weston and will not only help in the fight against climate change, but also include an on-site Energy Learning Zone to help schools and communities learn about renewable energy.
WECA’s Local Energy Scheme, funded by the European Regional Development Fund, required applicants to put forward innovative projects that also delivered community benefits.
Mark Pepper, from ALW said: “Its fantastic news that WECA has granted this capital fund to a truly grassroots community group, Ambition Community Energy CIC. This will greatly help oversee our area’s regeneration for many years into the future, whilst enabling us to reduce our carbon footprint. This will also ensure the project delivers a mass of community benefits to Lawrence Weston and the surrounding areas.”
CASE STUDY: South West Energy Hub – Bath and West Community Energy
Communities across the South West, were awarded nearly £200,000 in feasibility funding from the Rural Community Energy Fund.
One group which benefitted was Bath and West Community Energy (BWCE), which was awarded £25,000 to test the viability of a community-owned electric vehicle charging network, powered by solar energy. The project will initially be trialled in Bradford on Avon with potential to expand to other rural communities in West Wiltshire and Bath and North East Somerset, where Bath and West Community operates.
Alex Lockton, Development Coordinator at BWCE, said: “We were delighted to receive this grant funding which is a major boost for the project. We’ve already been in talks with local community groups and councillors and we know there is certainly the appetite for this kind of infrastructure within the area. Many people have told us they want to reduce their travel-related carbon emissions but in rural areas using public transport or cycling does not suit everyone’s lifestyles. By providing community owned charging facilities we hope to make low carbon travel more accessible.”
The funding scheme for this project is administered by the South West Energy Hub, hosted by WECA.
To find out more about the scheme and whether your business is eligible, visit our South West Energy Hub web pages.
Case study – Love our High Street campaign – progress so far
A new initiative called Love our High Streets was established by WECA in 2019, investing £10m to boost local high streets across the West of England. It kick-started projects in Bath & North East Somerset, Bristol and South Gloucestershire, including Bath, Bedminster, Kingswood and Midsomer Norton. Work has already begun in Kingswood and Midsomer Norton.
So far, proposals to regenerate Midsomer Norton High Street and create an attractive multi-use public space have announced and residents encouraged to give their views.
Bath & North East Somerset Council launched an online public consultation on the designs, which are part of the High Streets Heritage Action Zone programme to enhance the historic character of the town.
The proposals for the open space and market square outside the Town Hall aim to provide a welcoming, safe and attractive place that enhances the western end of the High Street and supports local retailers, as well as creating a space for markets and cultural events.
The improvements are the first of many projects in the £2m Midsomer Norton High Streets Heritage Action Zone to celebrate the historic high street and encourage sustainable economic growth.
South Gloucestershire Council have already started a range of initiatives from this funding in Kingswood, including the Whitfield Tabernacle. The council is working with the Whitfield Tabernacle Trust to deliver stabilisation work to enable this previously derelict heritage asset to be opened to the public. £682,000 has been awarded by WECA to repair, re-roof and re-open, kick starting the improvements to this historical building. The most urgent phase 1 works were completed on site in July 2020.
In addition, they are developing a targeted approach to empty properties with a Community and Business Grant Scheme under business case development and are continuing to promote a grant-funding package for low carbon business interventions.
More recently, the project was awarded a £7.5m boost by the WECA Committee, as well as presenting a significant opportunity to lever in a provisional award of £12.2m through the Government’s Future High Streets programme, alongside £4.8m from South Gloucestershire Council.