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Business growth programme returns for Cumbrian SMEs

A successful support programme which has helped more than 100 businesses across the county returns to set Cumbrian SMEs on the path to recovery and growth.

Delivered by Lancaster University Management School (LUMS) and funded by the European Regional Development Fund, Cumbria Forum is designed to support small and medium sized businesses by providing a trusted peer-to-peer network and activities to stimulate self-development and business growth.

The innovative programme incorporates key elements of Lancaster University’s research into how entrepreneurs learn and grow. Since launching in 2016, Cumbria Forum has helped more than 140 companies, and helped to create more than 35 new jobs.

Now delivered online, the programme has been adapted to best fit the ‘post-pandemic world’ and will be delivered over the course of a four-month period. The fully-funded programme is now open for applications, and is due to start on June 15, 2021.

Participants sign up to two online sessions per month, combined with a facilitated peer consultancy process so participants can apply their learning to their business.

Ewan Pullan, Project Manager at LUMS, said: “The world has changed more than we could have imagined 12 months ago, and business leaders have been inundated with challenges and forced to make difficult decisions. Now, armed with a pathway to a ‘new normal’ and with lockdown easing, mindsets will need to shift from survival mode to rebuilding.

“The principles of Cumbria Forum have arguably never been so valuable. It is more important than ever that businesses innovate, adapt and grow to secure a stable, successful future.”

The new and reformed Cumbria Forum covers topics such as business resilience, innovation and leadership under an overarching theme of ‘Responsible Recovery’; helping leaders plan for a business which is not just economically successful, but is socially and environmentally responsible.

Delivered as part of the Growth Hub, it offers a safe place for leaders to develop their own skills as well as develop their organisations with the help of the latest research, leading business experts and world-class academics from Lancaster University Management School (LUMS), along with benefiting from the practical experience of peers.

Since the pandemic hit in March 2020, Cumbria Forum has delivered specialist programmes offering bespoke help, support and adapted online content to organisations as they adjusted to new ways of working.

Liam Berney, owner of The Cottage in the Wood, the Whinlatter Forest-based ‘restaurant with rooms’, is one of the business leaders who has recently benefitted from Cumbria Forum support when, just five months after his restaurant was awarded a Michelin Star, the pandemic forced its doors to close.

Liam said: “An unexpected benefit of taking part in the programme has been the opportunity to share experiences with other delegates. I was amazed at the innovation taking place at even some very small enterprises within the county.

“The sessions have been inspiring. This has been an invaluable opportunity to generate and share ideas, learn from others including the expert programme leaders, and sow the seeds for future innovations.”

Suzanne Caldwell, Managing Director of Cumbria Chamber of Commerce, the lead partner in The Growth Hub, said: “We know from the feedback from previous participants just how beneficial Cumbria Forum is.

“Owners and managers can take a step back from the day-to-day and think strategically about where their business is going and how it can develop.

“It’s an opportunity to tap into expertise from one of the UK’s leading business schools, learn from inspirational entrepreneurs and bounce ideas off other SME owners and managers in a similar position.

“It’s a great programme and it has never been needed more than it is now.”

Business leaders who are interested in the Cumbria Forum can find out more here or they can register their interest by contacting cumbriaforum@lancaster.ac.uk or calling 01524 593709.

Cumbria Business Growth Hub is delivered by a group of partners – led by Cumbria Chamber of Commerce. As part of this the ERDF Growth Hub project  is led by Cumbria Chamber of Commerce and delivered by the Chamber in partnership with Lancaster University Management School. The project is receiving up to £2,326,103 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.  The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) 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.