Rural businesses invited to bid for cash

Businesses in Norfolk and Suffolk can now take advantage of a capital grant opportunity of up to £30,000.

DRIVE, the Delivering Rural Investment for Vital Employment Programme, wants to hear from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) seeking to invest in growth and jobs.

Launched earlier this year, the £3m scheme is funded by The European Regional Development Fund, and will run until August 2022.

Applications can be made for up to 40 per cent of total project costs, with a minimum grant of £5,000 and a maximum of £30,000.

Before an application is made, a business will benefit from up to 12 hours of mentoring from a DRIVE Business Mentor, who will provide support to create a project plan and a full business plan. Hence, the business will have the best chance of preparing a successful grant application.

Graham Plant, deputy leader of Norfolk County Council, said: “I’m delighted that the first projects to be awarded funding are already seeing improvements to their businesses. Norfolk and Suffolk are perfect locations for these projects to thrive and we wish them every success using their new funding.

“We hope to see many more small and medium-sized businesses come forward to talk to Norfolk County Council’s DRIVE team about mentoring and support.”

Lee Hunton, Director of Machined Precision Components (MPC) Ltd, in Watton

Lee applied to DRIVE to receive funding towards a new computer numerical control (CNC) turning machine, which means he can employ an additional part-time machinist at MPC Ltd.

Lee said: “The Mentor interaction was very useful because it allowed us to think about the details needed for the application beforehand, so the application process was straightforward.

“We have already noticed the benefits of DRIVE with extra production capabilities, a reduction in lead times and the elimination of bottlenecks.

“I would definitely recommend DRIVE to anyone else for several reasons: the application is pretty straightforward, the mentoring shined a light on our strengths and weaknesses as a business, and the funding available is hugely attractive.”

Hannah Springham, Managing Director of Farmyard Frozen Ltd, in Easton (Norfolk Showground)

Hannah and her husband and business partner, Andrew, submitted a DRIVE application to support their new start-up, which meant adapting their businesses to current circumstances.

They were awarded funding towards a frozen food truck and kitchen equipment, and intend to add two new full-time and one part-time employees to their team.

Hannah said: “We’re so proud of the business plan we’ve achieved with DRIVE. Our Mentor was extremely helpful. DRIVE has allowed us to fast track through our first year, enabling us to provide frozen deliveries nationally within our first three months of starting up. We’d hugely recommend working with DRIVE; it’s been a game changer for our new start up in its infancy and we’re enormously grateful for the experienced support we received throughout the process too.”

Andy Hipwell, Director of Ampersand Brew Co. Ltd, Diss

Andy applied to DRIVE to receive assistance with purchasing new brewery equipment, so he could expand Ampersand’s production levels and outputs. As a result of their DRIVE project they plan to hire two new employees.

“DRIVE made us look further into the future and plan how the DRIVE grant could not only help us this year but provide foundations for growth in future years. Having an experienced Mentor to bounce ideas off really helped us to develop a sustainable and achievable business plan and pushed us to look harder at the opportunities available to us as a small but fast-growing business.

“The grant will also indirectly provide employment further down the line as we continue to grow post DRIVE. We would definitely recommend DRIVE, the process of going through the mentoring sessions and producing a business plan is a great tool for any business.”

Find out more online at; email; or call 01603 222643.

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