Funding bid for Norwich enterprise centre

A new enterprise centre could be built near Norwich Airport it emerged last night as it was listed as one of four projects which will seek government funding with the help of a new body set up to create jobs and economic growth in the region.

At the first briefing of the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) at the University of East Anglia yesterday business chiefs revealed an 'enterprise centre and business incubator' on Hurricane Way, near Norwich Airport was likely to apply for cash from the Regional Growth Fund next week.

The New Anglia LEP, which was given the green light in December, is one of 27 organisations formed nationally after the government announced it was axing regional development agencies.

The government is hoping that by creating the public and private sector enterprise partnerships in 'more meaningful economic areas' it will help the areas determine their economic priorities locally and will drive economic growth and the creation of local jobs.

Peter Barry, managing director of Pasta Foods who is jointly chairing the LEP with Mr Wood, said both the private and public sector were singing from the same hymn sheet.

He said 'We think New Anglia has got to be selective about the priorities it can deliver in the short term and then the view about what can happen in the long term.'

He said: 'One of the things we don't know at the moment is where funding is going to come from. The perfect position for us is if we can find funds to set up incubated units or hubs that are going to work to develop SMEs (small and medium enterprises) going forwards.

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'If we can do that we should think about in core area of business and that may well be in tourism or energy. What we can't do is ignore the opportunities in other areas as well.

'At the moment funding is quite and important aspect in trying to achieve that.'

He said in the short term they were co-ordinating bids to the regional growth fund.

But he said the regional growth fund is meant to be for re-balancing the economy from public to private sector.

'We do have a big public sector here and we have to keep shouting about it. But unfortunately there are places where they have 40pc public sector like the North-East.'

The regional growth bids, which the LEP plans to co-ordinate, include two Lotus bids to update the manufacturing facilities at Hethel and to develop the Lotus Technology Park. They could also back bids for a low carbon technology park in King's Lynn and an enterprise centre on Hurricane Way near Norwich Airport.

Adnams chief executive and Choose Suffolk chairman Andy Wood, said: 'I think people were well engaged and they supported the direction the LEP is moving in.

'I think we are feeling our way at the moment and clearly the private and public sectors have different ways of working. If you look at this from an entirely self interested perspective what we all want to see if jobs and economic growth and to put Norfolk and Suffolk on the map both nationally and internationally. We have got a real opportunity to make that happen now.

'What we have seen is that the public sector is prepared to work with business.

'I think there is a whole new way of approaching things and it's very very refreshing.'

But he said he had hoped that more individual businesses would sign up to the LEP.

Norfolk County Council leader Derrick Murphy said: 'The LEP is a business led initiative but our job is to help as much as we can to achieve the aims for the LEP.

'We have links politically at a national and supernational level with the EU. The LEP is this idea of really strong collegiate working.'

He said the needed to deliver broadband, which was spoken about at the briefing yesterday, was an example of that.