An independent assessment has found that Lancaster University’s support of local businesses has added £500m to the regional economy, creating or protecting as many as 900 jobs.

The university currently leads or supports 12 European Structural and Investment Funds and has worked with 700 businesses based in Lancashire and Cumbria.

Projects include the Health Innovation Campus business development project, which has supported 300 Lancashire SMEs, The Lancashire Forum, a six-month programme delivered by Lancaster University Management School and the Boost to help senior decision makers of SMEs grow their businesses, and the Cumbria Innovations Platform.

The impact figures were calculated by independent economic development consultancy Ekosgen, which surveyed 190 businesses about the impact the support they had received.

The report also found that for every £1 of the £27.5m invested by ESIF in the various projects, the beneficiaries received £18 of value. This is forecast to rise to £28 – or £770m value added – by the time the programme completes. Of all those surveyed, 99 per cent also said they felt the projects they were involved with were appropriately delivered.

Dion Williams, director of research, enterprise and innovation at Lancaster University, said: “These results are unprecedented and really show the return on investment from investing in projects which help grow our economy, in line with the UK’s Industrial Strategy.

“For a relatively low initial investment, you can see the huge difference it makes when SMEs get the support they need to develop and grow their business. Added to that is the fact that SMEs make up 99.7 per cent of all business in Lancashire which means that growth in this area has a major impact on employment in our region.”

“We brought in Ekosgen to provide us with an accurate and independent assessment of our work to date, as we have other projects coming on line and wanted to ensure what we were offering was fit for purpose and gave appropriate value for the beneficiaries and for the funders. While we always felt we were taking the right approach, we were delighted to see some of the results which came out of the report.

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