A regional Investment Plan for the South West Wales region

What NPT businesses need to know about the UK shared prosperity fund

The UK Government has recently approved a regional Investment Plan for the South West Wales region, which will unlock a £132 million allocation from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund for Neath Port Talbot, Swansea, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire local authorities.
We’ve put together the following information that should answer any questions you might have about how this funding will be used. Of course, if there’s anything you’d like to know that isn’t covered, feel free to contact us here at the NPT Economic Development Team.

Let’s Talk Business….

Free support for businesses to start, grow and innovate

Let’s Talk Business over a cuppa, led by our Business Development Officers, our Let’s Talk Business events are all about exploring those exciting business ideas, exploring opportunities and plans to grow your existing business and/or funding support . Our highly skilled officers and external business partners will be on hand to hear about your ideas, offer support and explore issues that matter most to your businesses.  

Our Let’s Talk Business events will be taking place across Neath Port Talbot, and we look forward to meeting you.

To find an event near you and to register, click the below link.

What is the UK Shared Prosperity Fund?

The UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) is a central pillar of the UK Government’s Levelling Up agenda. The intention of the UK Shared Prosperity Fund is to build pride in place and increase life chances through local investment in 3 broad priority areas: communities and place, support for local businesses and people and skills.

Funding has been allocated to areas across the UK using formulas rather than by inviting competitive bids. The UKSPF is a mix of revenue and capital and replaces some, not all aspects of EU Structural and Investment funds (ERDF and ESF), the fund is not a like-for-like replacement, as the way in which it will be controlled and allocated will be very different.

 

How much is Neath Port Talbot’s share?

Neath Port Talbot’s share of funding will be just over £27 million core and £5.7million Multiply (adult numeracy programme), to be allocated during the delivery of the programme to the end of March 2025. Of this, £4.8 million has been earmarked specifically for business support activity.

 

What is the purpose of this funding?

The purpose of UK Shared Prosperity Fund is to build pride in place and increase life chances.

We believe that this can be best achieved in Neath Port Talbot by:

  • Developing a well-coordinated gateway to business support
  • Building long-term resilience within the local economy by supporting business start-ups, spin outs from academia , existing businesses and support inward investment into the area
  • Supporting the sustainability of our valley communities through the start-up and development of businesses in the foundational economy and social businesses to create local employment
  • Developing and supporting a culture of innovation within local SMEs
  • Responding to climate change by providing support to mitigate its impacts
  • Maximising the benefits for local businesses of major developments and/or investments, e.g. Global Centre of Rail Excellence, the Celtic Freeport bid, the rolling out of Floating Offshore Wind (FLOW) in the Celtic Sea, Wildfox Resorts Afan Valley
  • Maximising the value of the Neath Port Talbot pound by increasing the ability of local SMEs to secure public sector contracts
  • Developing stronger partnerships with business and between businesses to facilitate networking, sharing of best practice, connecting to new markets and identifying common concerns, etc.

 

Where will the funding be targeted?

The funding will ensure that we’re able to build on our current business support programmes by meeting identified gaps in provision. Support will be available to all businesses in Neath Port Talbot, with a specific focus on the following key sectors:

  • Construction
  • Creative & Media
  • Energy/Environmental/Renewables
  • Engineering
  • ICT
  • Manufacturing
  • Retail
  • Services
  • Tourism, Hospitality & Leisure.

Additional activity will be targeted at businesses in the manufacturing and engineering sectors and those operating in what’s known as the ‘foundational economy’ (businesses that provide essential goods and services to support everyday life).

Manufacturing and engineering businesses continue to form a significant part of the local economy, accounting for 25% of NPT’s total output compared with 17% across Wales and 10% across the UK. These sectors are considered key drivers of economic growth and diversification, based on new and emerging technologies.

Businesses in the foundational economy supply the goods and services that everyone in the community relies upon. These businesses include those in health and care, food production, housing, energy, construction, tourism and retail. Often the backbone of the local economy, they provide much-needed employment and income for many households in the most deprived communities. Estimates suggest that the foundational economy accounts for around 40% of jobs in Wales and £1 of every £3 spent. The pressures all businesses are facing as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic and the current cost of living crisis are likely to be more keenly felt by those in the foundational economy.

Geographically, funding will target businesses in two distinct areas of economic activity. The first is the area along the M4 corridor encompassing the conurbations of Port Talbot and Neath. This area covers a number of business parks and industrial estates, key employment sites such as Tata Steel and significant recent developments such as the University of Wales Bay Campus and the Bay Technology Centre.

The second area is centred on the Afan, Dulais, Neath, Swansea and Amman valleys. Some of the most deprived communities in NPT are found in these valleys, being the most severely hit by deindustrialisation after the collapse of the region’s mining industry. Many continue to be disadvantaged due to a lack of local employment opportunities and poor transport infrastructure and services. Businesses in the foundational economy are therefore critical to the prosperity of these areas.

 

How will the funding be spent?

The economic climate in which the funding has been allocated is both challenging and uncertain. Therefore, all activity being supported by the funding has been developed with the flexibility to respond quickly and appropriately to the needs of businesses.

Delivery of the funding in Neath Port Talbot will be focused on 5 key areas:

  • Supporting indigenous growth in key sectors
  • Supporting the foundational economy
  • Providing financial and specialist support
  • Undertaking feasibility studies
  • Developing and implementing social value policies.

Activity is planned as follows:

  • Grant fund – Grants of between £500 and £50,000 will be available for both capital and revenue investment projects for new business start-ups, existing businesses and inward investors.
  • Supporting innovation and growth in key sectors – Businesses will be able to take advantage of a specialist diagnostic service, which will help them identify the steps they need to take to achieve their growth potential and access free specialist consultancy support to support growth and development.
  • Supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs – Activity will focus on highlighting to students the option of going into business for one’s self, showcasing NPT as a location in which to set up business and the support available.
  • Scoping of development opportunities – The re-development of the Port at Port Talbot, Floating Offshore Wind (FLOW) and the Global Rail Centre of Excellence present transferal changes to create a new manufacturing industry in NPT. This work will investigate the potential opportunities which can be linked to supply chain opportunities or attracting further investment into the area
  • Clean Growth Hubs Phase 2 – An assessment will be made of the commercial development opportunities of further carbon storage facilities, in addition to the ones identified at Margam and Harbourside during Phase 1.
  • Strategic positioning – Work will be completed to produce and evidence NPT’s strategic positioning and potential economic offering, as a means of showcasing the area to investors and supporting future funding bids.
  • Profiling innovation and economic opportunities – A scoping study of current and future opportunities in NPT to attract inward investment from outside the authority and facilitate the development and expansion of local businesses.
  • Specialist support – Providing a tool box of support to meet specific business and/or sector needs.

Activity will include:

  • Low carbon energy and resource efficiency audits
  • Specialist consultancy support
  • Operational reviews
  • Business forums
  • Digital technology audits
  • Social business development support
  • Social value policy development
  • Workshops – Organised by sector or by business subject
  • Events – Drop-in Business Bootcamps, Enterprise Clubs and Meet the Buyer sessions
  • Local supply chain development.

This project will build on and dovetail with existing business support programmes by meeting identified gaps in provision, while maintaining the flexibility to respond quickly and appropriately to the needs of businesses in this challenging economic climate.

 

This project is wide ranging in its scope and seeks to raise the profile of NPT as a visitor destination, strengthen the social fabric of our local communities and encourage a sense of local pride and belonging in residents, through investment.

This project seeks to address the decline in our rural areas, the shortage of quality housing, commercial properties and public facilities in the valleys and villages across the county and the current gap in provision of grant funding for such projects.

 

Funding for each of these projects will be as follows:

  • Enhanced Business Support for Growth and Innovation £4.8 million
  • Place £6.4 million
  • Valleys and Villages Prosperity Grant £2 million

Who will be delivering the funding and activity?

The project Enhanced Business Support for Growth and Innovation Project will be led and managed by Neath Port Talbot Council’s Economic Development Team. We believe we already have well-established working relationships with local businesses and support providers from both the public and private sectors. And our ability to evolve quickly, to innovate and respond to challenging economic challenges such as the 2008 global financial crisis and – most recently – the impact of Covid-19, means we’re perfectly-placed to deliver this ambitious project.

Unlocking NPT’s allocation of the Shared Prosperity Fund will have two significant effects for the team. Firstly, it’ll allow us to develop and deliver a comprehensive programme of activities that not only integrates with and enhances current business support, but also enables us to bridge the gap in provision. Secondly, we will be able to strengthen the team with the addition of newly-created fixed term roles, which ultimately means we’ll be able to provide support to greater numbers of individuals and businesses in Neath Port Talbot.