With the recent Budget many will feel the Chancellor missed an opportunity to rebalance the UK economy towards much needed investment and encouragement for more exports. Despite the poor management of the main levers at George Osborne’s disposal, here in Wales the Welsh Government has made some significant strides in supporting and encouraging the small and medium business sector.
The Welsh Government Budget will be 10% lower by 2015-16 because of the severe cuts imposed by Whitehall, and it has to cope with a massive 31% real terms cut in its capital budget. Yet despite these unprecedented constraints, over 8,000 new businesses have been created and £665 million of contracts won using EU Structural Funds.
Wales already has some great examples of the HE sector working successfully with business. Consider how a patent has now been granted to a Cardiff University team for designing microbial fuel cells, which make chemical energy from waste streams, with exciting applications including wastewater treatment and electricity generation.
Meanwhile, a team of scientists from Swansea University’s Biosciences department has discovered a mechanism where a specific fungus kills mosquito larvae by producing stress when ingested. Trials have started in Africa and this discovery from Wales offers the potential to treat malaria.
As Jane Hutt, Finance Minister said: “Businesses in Wales are benefiting from EU funds …helping to increase competitiveness, innovation and growth”. Looking ahead the EU Horizon 2020 Research and Development Fund provides a more targeted support and is a great opportunity for Welsh SME’s to access a E79 million fund for growth opportunities.
Given the impact of the difficult economic climate on many small businesses, the EU JEREMIE Fund has invested about £110 million and provided support for around 500 firms in Wales to help with jobs and growth.
As we approach the European elections it is crucial we succeed in getting Labour MEP’s elected so they can stand up for Wales and continue to secure important funding for new business, research and innovation. Derek Vaughan succeeded in securing a £130 million increase in funds for Wales, when we risked facing a £400 million cut.
Enclosed are articles on the importance of thriving small business on the High Street to our communities, the need for a EU Growth Commissioner, how the UK needs a joined-up strategic approach to exports, using public procurement to boost women-led SME’s and how EU support is vital to SME’s in Wales.