As part of the Government’s drive for a green industrial revolution and the Council’s COVID-19 Economic Strategy and climate change commitments, Derbyshire County Council has launched a Green Entrepreneurs Fund – a £2 million grant fund to help local businesses develop and invest in green energy and carbon reduction, and provide a boost to the local economy in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic will generate both unprecedented challenges and new opportunities the UK. In relation to the economy and businesses, Derbyshire County Council has identified specific economic impacts on the county, which includes:
- significant impacts on many of Derbyshire’s key sectors, such as the Visitor Economy, due to lockdowns and social distancing
- significant reduction in apprenticeship postings over lockdown – limiting opportunities for Derbyshire’s young people
- an estimated 14% reduction in output (OBR data) in 2020, equating to a loss of £2.3bn to the local economy
- a 150% increase in benefit claimants across the county between June 2019 and 2020.
However, there is an opportunity to underpin the county’s recovery with green solutions, drive innovation and accelerate economic growth. This requires us to establish our priorities to protect and grow Derbyshire's economy and ensure county-wide recovery coordination. It also requires clear and dedicated funding to be made available to businesses to help drive forward the green recovery.
The Green Entrepreneurs Programme comprises different strands to support businesses and individuals to develop local energy sources and/or low carbon initiatives for communities and businesses, whilst also supporting the manufacture and development of equipment required to provide alternative/low carbon energy and reskilling opportunities.
The programme, which is being funded through Derbyshire County Council’s COVID-19 recovery fund, has been set up in collaboration with the University of Derby as part of the Council’s COVID-19 economic strategy and climate change commitments.
The programme includes three funding streams:
- Green Entrepreneurs Demonstrator Fund: £1.2 million set aside for a small number of high-quality projects from entrepreneurs wanting to establish green, alternative energy or low carbon initiatives in Derbyshire to provide community heat and power schemes. The minimum grant available through this fund would be £100,000.
- Green Entrepreneurs Small Grant Fund: Grants of £10,000 to £20,000 for new and existing businesses with game changing proposals in alternative energy, clean fuel and carbon reduction. £500,000 will be made available through this fund.
- Green Entrepreneurs Scholarship Fund: A training fund to support individuals to retrain with skills to enable them to enter the field of alternative energy. £100,000 will be made available through this fund, with grants awarded of up to £1,500 per person.
Projects are to be prioritised and assessed against the following criteria:
- replicability to other locations to share best practice methods of working
- likelihood of success, based on previous delivery (e.g., prototypes, small-scale pilots, independent assessment)
- value for money of grant invested
- impact in terms of tonnes of carbon saved – target of 500 KgCO2 savings per £1,000 grant.
Priority will be given to proposals that demonstrate game changing propositions in alternative energy, clean fuel and carbon reduction at both a local, regional and national level. To ensure innovation and genuine vision for the future are supported, the parameters of the scheme are designed to encourage solutions beyond the mainstream of current thinking.
There are several rounds for application for funding, which run until March 2024. We expect to see the first set of funds allocated to projects later in the summer.
Statement by Leader of Derbyshire County Council Councillor Barry Lewis:
“We’re championing business innovation and want Derbyshire to become a leader in the field in the development of green energy as part of our bold ambition to cut the council’s carbon emissions to net zero by 2032, or sooner, and that of the Derbyshire economy by 2050, or sooner.
“We believe there is a unique opportunity to bring greater benefits to local communities and the local economic conditions to create high quality jobs driven by utilising the local skills base in engineering and manufacturing.
“We’re excited to be able to offer businesses the financial support needed to help turn their ideas into reality, through game changing proposals that help to tackle climate change and impact positively on the way we all live in the future both in Derbyshire and further afield.”
We expect the Green Entrepreneurs Fund to:
- establish and support new businesses that meet Derbyshire County Council Carbon and Climate Reduction Manifesto
- support established Derbyshire SMEs that can demonstrate a model of innovative working that develops new products or systems to reduce environmental damage
- support community organisations to deliver local energy solutions
- provide access to training opportunities for both new start entrepreneurs and employees of indigenous businesses.
The fund will also help to lower the carbon impact of businesses, improve profitability and help to ensure the sustainability of businesses, and have wider benefits for the community, environment, place and local economy.
Encouragement of innovative solutions will support a minimum of 31 project proposals to provide significant carbon reduction savings and create new jobs within the sector. The scholarship fund will support in excess of 67 individuals to expand their knowledge base through supporting training opportunities in the low carbon economy.
How is the new approach being sustained?
Key to ensuring sustainability of the approach is keeping key partners and communications officers updated on developments within the programme. We are in the first few months of delivery of a three-year programme of activity, to achieve long term sustainability we have implemented a robust partnership approach to developing and delivering activities against the three strands.
As projects achieve their objectives, case studies will be produced to inspire future applications and project development. Value for money and the longevity of projects form part of the evaluation of applications coming forward and this information is used to inform and adapt the programme as required.
As the programme is currently in the initial implementation phase, lessons learned is part of the ongoing reflection and evaluation process of the Board and delivery partners. The Green Entrepreneurs Board includes a range of external partners, including the University of Derby representing skills, and the Federation of Small Business and East Midlands Chamber of Commerce to represent businesses across the county. This ensures we have valid and ‘real time’ information to inform the programme.
As a local authority funded programme, we are in a position to respond to and reflect changing local circumstances to meet the needs of the fast changing and newly emerging green skills requirements alongside the existing and emerging Business and Community asks. The pandemic has highlighted the need for Local Authorities to be fast moving and build in the ability to focus delivery to meet changing circumstances. The Green Entrepreneurs Board and delivery arrangements have been designed to have the flexibility to meet ongoing challenges.
The Green Entrepreneurs Programme has not had met with any difficulties in engaging with all levels across the Authority, as during design and implementation senior Leaders and Officers have been involved to ensure the tailored offer is the right one for Derbyshire at this time.