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Growth fund of £72m will secure 8,600 Westcountry jobs

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: October 19, 2012

AgustaWestland's family of commercial helicopters. The company has been awarded growth fund cash

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The Westcountry is to receive £72 million to boost jobs across the region, including a £3.9m grant for small business bid for by the Western Morning News and Plymouth University that is expected to create up to 500 new posts.

Roborough-based Plessey Semiconductors is among seven successful bidders in the region in line to receive a share of the cash from the Regional Growth Fund.

The Plessey bid was for a project to establish a manufacturing facility for High Brightness Light Emitting Diodes (HB LED). The exact amount it will receive has not been released by the Department for Business.

And AgustaWestland of Yeovil have two winning bids, to develop a hybrid helicopter and aeroplane, and create a civil helicopter capability.

The first scheme will see design and development work carried out on new tiltrotor technologies for the AW609 TiltRotor. It is hoped it will revolutionise flying by combining the benefits of a helicopter and an aeroplane, and be the world's first high-speed commercial rotorcraft to enter the market in 2016.

The second project will help create a new industry sector in the UK with a civil helicopter facility, including a final assembly line, maintenance and a training academy.

The £72 million provisionally awarded to the South West bidders aims to create or safeguard 8,640 jobs over the lifetime of the schemes and lever in £148 million of private sector cash.

It forms part of the £1 billion third round of the RGF, which is aimed at boosting the economy and creating employment. Nationally, 130 bidders out of 414 were selected to receive financial support. The Government says the projects will safeguard or create 240,000 jobs, in addition to 300,000 from two previous rounds of the fund.

The biggest beneficiary was the North East which had 25 projects approved, with grants totalling £105 million.

Business Minister Michael Fallon insisted there was no bias towards a given region, but the funding was targeted at areas which were over-dependent on the public sector.

And responding to criticism of delays in awarding grants in the previous two rounds, Mr Fallon said he had introduced a strict six-month timetable for processing bids.

He said: "We will be getting money out of the door much faster. I have set a firm time limit of three months for the company to finalise the offer and a further three months for due diligence.

"I don't want any delay with this round. I want to see all these projects under way by April."

The Plymouth University and Western Morning News Growth Fund (PWGF), has previously secured £1 million of funding, and the success of the latest bid puts it on course to support around 75 local businesses with grants of between £25,000 and £125,000.

Professor Wendy Purcell, Vice-chancellor and Chief Executive of Plymouth University, said: "We are absolutely delighted to help drive economic growth in the far South West following the success of our first Regional Growth Fund programme.

"It clearly marks out our distinctive position within higher education nationally in being a catalyst for economic development, and connecting our world-class research strengths with the regional economy.

"It also reaffirms our nomination for the Times Higher Education award as University of the Year, and for the third year running Entrepreneurial University of the Year which is unparalleled."

The PWGF is also a key component of GAIN, the Growth Acceleration and Investment Network set up by Plymouth University, Plymouth City Council and the Tamar Science Park to drive business growth and job creation across the South West.

Professor Julian Beer, Pro Vice-chancellor for Regional Enterprise at Plymouth University, said: "This is fantastic news for the region's economy and a huge vote of confidence in what we have already achieved with the first round of RGF investment.

"This multi-million pound award means we can continue the great work we are doing as a University and through GAIN to create a culture of enterprise in the South West.

"Ministers have been very impressed with the number of jobs we have created and know that through GAIN and the Western Morning News we have the channels to get to businesses seeking to grow."

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