Wavehill's recent in-depth evaluation of the Swindon and Wiltshire Growth Hub, operating under the auspices of the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership (SWLEP), has revealed notable progress and effectiveness in fostering regional business growth. This assessment, spanning April 2022 to March 2023, builds on previous reviews conducted since 2017, offering a detailed analysis of the Growth Hub's development and its impact on the business community​​.

The study primarily aimed to evaluate the relevance, coherence, and effectiveness of the support offered by the Swindon and Wiltshire Growth Hub. It also assessed its alignment with stated objectives, the experience in delivering and managing support, and the impacts from the perspective of local businesses​​. This evaluation incorporated interviews with key stakeholders involved in the management and governance of the Growth Hub, alongside surveys conducted with businesses that have availed its support​​.

Guided by the 2020 Local Industrial Strategy, the SWLEP has been pivotal in setting the region’s economic development priorities and business support policies. Key focus areas include enhancing connectivity, increasing exporting power, and promoting innovation in high-tech sectors, universities, and Research and Development assets​​.

The Swindon and Wiltshire Growth Hub plays a crucial role in advancing the key objectives of the SWLEP Local Industrial Strategy. It has dynamically adjusted its goals to effectively respond to various challenges faced by local businesses, including Brexit, the COVID-19 pandemic, the cost of living crisis, and inflationary pressures​​. Governed by the SWLEP Board’s Business Environment Subgroup, the Growth Hub's governance structure has been recognized for its efficiency and agility​​.

The Swindon and Wiltshire Growth Hub provides a broad spectrum of business support services, including start-up support, skills development, access to finance, digital marketing, scale-up support, decarbonization, health and wellbeing, and enhancing digital capacity​​. Businesses sought support predominantly for issues related to lack of business running experience and specific skill gaps. Beneficiaries have lauded the overall quality of support, especially the effectiveness of communication and the usefulness of information provided​​.

In terms of performance, the Swindon and Wiltshire Growth Hub surpassed its engagement targets in medium-intensity support, while a significant number of businesses reported improvements due to the support they received. Approximately three-quarters of respondents felt their business was in a better position following support from the Growth Hub.

The support also translated into measurable business growth. A quarter of the respondents indicated that their turnover increased following engagement with the Growth Hub. Moreover, the support contributed to the creation of 98 Full-Time Equivalent (FTE) jobs. However, the challenging economic conditions, including a 41-year high in annual inflation rates and escalating costs across the economy, may have moderated broader growth outcomes​​.

This report underscores the Swindon and Wiltshire Growth Hub's critical role in nurturing and enhancing the business landscape in the region, demonstrating resilience and adaptability in a challenging economic environment.

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