A new funding programme, I-Construct, has now launched. This helps small and medium businesses (SMEs) in the construction and built environment sector embrace innovation and access new business opportunities.
It offers three types of support – grant funding, mentoring and access to a supply chain development network – with the intention of supporting SMEs involved in construction and its supply chain to innovate and grow.
Grant funding of between £1,000 and £20,000* is available to part-fund the development or launch of a new product or service which also offers wider innovation benefits to the sector such as improving productivity and sustainability. SMEs can also benefit from up to 9 hours of 1:1 business support (with a value of up to £1,200) through the I-Construct mentoring scheme.
Mentoring and expert advice is provided by a panel of industry leaders and experts who have director level experience of working in the construction sector or supply chain and are passionate about using their experience to help SMEs develop and grow.
The I-Construct network is free to join and will bring the construction industry together and help SMEs join local supply chains, access new business opportunities, find other industry professionals and identify potential partners.
From Summer 2021, network members will also benefit from the new Innovation Hub opening in Braintree, Essex. The space will be used for networking events, product launches and talks by experts on relevant topics including offsite construction, renewable energy, zero-carbon construction and BIM software.
To find out about eligibility, businesses should visit www.i-construct.org.uk
Minister for Regional Growth and Local Government, Luke Hall MP said: “We’re backing growth and innovation projects across the country, levelling up local economies, supporting jobs and unlocking opportunities for communities. I-Construct is an excellent example of this support, construction is a vital sector and the grants, mentoring and access to networks will be invaluable to local SMEs. It’s fantastic news that the project will also safeguard and create high quality jobs, while supporting the development of new innovative products over the coming three years.”
Andrew Lewer MP Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for SME House Builders said: “I welcome the I-Construct’s project support for SMEs. SME housebuilders are the front-line troops in our national ambition to both increase housebuilding, quality of build, and enhance the reputation of construction as an optimal career choice.”
Christian Brodie, Chair of the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) said: “The Construction sector is critical to our economy and is the largest employer in the SELEP region with 27,000 businesses employing more than 100,000 people. We have high expected levels of growth for the area and as we rebuild and recover from COVID-19 impacts, it has never been a more important time to back our local businesses”
Cllr Tom Cunningham, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Infrastructure at Braintree District Council, said: “This is an exciting and innovative project which will shine a light on innovative building solutions and modern methods of construction. We are creating a construction centre of regional importance which will help support and grow businesses as well as create more employment opportunities for residents over the long term.”
George Kieffer, Chairman of the Haven Gateway Partnership said: “The construction industry is vital to our economy and quality of life and we have lost too many SME builders due to labour shortages, the financial crisis and a lack of access to new technology. We have been guided by industry leaders who fully recognise that it is time for the sector to modernise in order to survive. I-Construct will not only safeguard existing jobs in the construction industry, but it will also help create new jobs and solve some of the challenges facing businesses within that industry.”
Anita Thornberry, Executive Director of the Haven Gateway Partnership said: “With so much investment planned in construction, there are major opportunities for SMEs to use innovation and new technologies to compete. I-Construct gives practical support to companies as they develop and implement their innovation plans and through our network, we will help them build links with people who can help them achieve their ambitions.”
*Requires the company to provide 70% of the funding for a project, with 30% being supported through the grant, which does not need to be repaid.