Motorway at night


New programme to help SMEs recover from the impacts of coronavirus

Businesses across Cumbria are invited to participate in a fully-funded programme with Lancaster University Management School (LUMS) to help them re-shape their business, innovate and thrive in the ‘new normal’ following the Covid-19 crisis.

Designed and delivered by LUMS’ leading academics, the Covid-19 Response Programme delivers online workshops to small groups of business leaders over a five-week period.

It runs in July and August, with each cohort supporting around 10 businesses.

Read a flyer for the scheme here.

Ewan Pullan, Project Manager at LUMS, said: “We understand that not everyone’s experience will be identical, but we know there will be similar challenges and worries plaguing many of our local SMEs.

“This programme is designed for business leaders to benefit from the expertise of our world-leading academic and business minds, while also sharing and working through real-time experiences with a strong peer network. The beauty of this opportunity is that businesses will have their own unique journey – and we will be on hand to support as they explore ways to drive business recovery in the short-term, while planning for a more resilient long-term future.”

Funded by the European Regional Development Fund, under Cumbria Business Growth Hub’s business support offer, the peer-learning programme for eligible SMEs offers business leaders the time, space and framework to work through problems and challenges, and look for opportunities. Participants who complete the programme will focus on strategic options for their business, develop personal action plans and establish how to implement change effectively.

Suzanne Caldwell, Deputy Chief Executive of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, the lead partner in the Growth Hub, said: “More and more businesses are reopening as coronavirus restrictions are lifted but this isn’t a return to normal.

“Customer behaviour and buying habits may change as a result of their experiences under lockdown and social-distancing rules mean that many businesses will have to operate differently.

“Some will need to find new markets or new routes to market.

“Our Growth Hub advisers can help businesses adapt and this new programme from LUMS is another valuable tool to help businesses re-evaluate, reboot and emerge stronger in the long run.”

Ewan Pullan added: “LUMS is in a unique position to bring together its community of businesses, academics and staff to focus on what the future looks like for business, and recovery of our region as a whole.

“It’s understandable that, in the early stages, businesses were in firefighting mode – responding reactively to the developing situation. Now, as the economy prepares to gradually re-open, the reality of what that actually entails, and how different socio-economic scenarios will impact on markets, supply chains and customer bases for individual businesses will be at the forefront of many minds – and that’s where we can help.”

More about the programme

This five-week online peer-learning programme is designed for SMEs in Cumbria and aims to support leaders to refocus their business following the coronavirus pandemic. Delegates will explore ways to drive business recovery in the short-term as well as planning for a more resilient long-term future.

During the five-weeks you will:

  • Explore potential future scenarios, changes in consumer behaviour and what the “new normal” might look like
  • Identify the impacts of these scenarios on your own business, your customer markets and supply chains
  • Work through your current and potential new markets and customers, including what their needs and wants are, and how your existing assets and resources can be used to address these
  • Develop a change management framework to engage staff in wide-scale change
  • Work towards a stronger and more resilient business model to build for the future and protect against potential future crises

Programme elements

Particpants will attend one half-day online session per week which includes a workshop, break-out sessions and offline activities.  You’ll particpate in a range of challenges and tasks to develop strategic thought processes and skills, and the focus on practical learning means there are no formal assessments.

Other elements include:

  • Access to leading academics and business experts from world-leading management school
  • Peer-network support with like-minded SMEs
  • Access to wider business support opportunities across the University
  • Online interactive workshops on key topics: The New Normal, Strategy, Business Model Innovation, Leading Change and Business Resilience

View the full programme here.

The Benefits

This programme gives you the time, space and framework to work through challenges whilst looking for opportunities. You will be provided with tools to be able to focus on strategic options for the business, develop personal action plans and establish how to implement change effectively. The peer network provides the support and the University provides the challenge to your thinking and ways of working.

Costs and application

This programme is fully funded, and available to European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)-eligible businesses. Businesses must meet the ERDF criteria as below:

  • Based in Cumbria
  • Employ fewer than 250 full-time employees
  • Has an annual turnover less than £40 million
  • Has received less than £160,000 of publicly-funded support in the last 3 years
  • Is business to business

To find out more click here or register your interest by emailing 

The funding that supports the Growth Hub comes from a range of sources including Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, the European Regional Development Fund, Sellafield Ltd., Carlisle City Council, South Lakeland District Council, Penrith Industrial BID and  Cumbria LEP.  The Growth Hub and is receiving up to £2,528,767 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information, click here.