The new Rural Economy Grant Scheme has been set up to support firms operating in sectors including food, tourism, forestry and farming. Grants are being provided to enable entrepreneurs in rural areas of England to take life-changing opportunities to grow their businesses, increasing their competitiveness, productivity and environmental efficiency as well as their profits.
The scheme will prioritise support for small businesses in Rural Growth Networks, a £15 million pilot project to help rural areas overcome barriers to growth, such as a lack of suitable premises and poor provision of infrastructure such as superfast broadband and mobile networks.
An overall funding pot of £60 million is available for distribution. Individual businesses could receive grants ranging from £25,000 up to £1 million per allocation. Successful applicants will receive up to 40% of the cost of their projects.
Grants can be used to help companies buy new processing and packing equipment, allowing them to target new markets. Farmers will also be able to apply for grants to improve animal health and welfare and improve soil nutrients and water management. Additionally, the funds can be used to take up new opportunities in the growing tourism industry as well as funding accommodation and visitor services and activities.
Rural entrepreneurs and existing rural businesses in England, including farms and firms in sectors such as food, tourism, forestry and farming may apply to the scheme. Micro and small and medium-sized businesses qualify for support.
Deadline: for receipt of applications under the programme’s first round is 30 April 2012.