Latest News | 25 March 2021

New £5m scheme to help Derby firms innovate and expand

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Derby City Council is to launch a £5 million programme to help businesses in the city innovate and expand, creating hundreds of new jobs.

It has developed its Ascend programme as part of the city’s coronavirus economic recovery strategy – devised to ensure that Derby can build back successfully after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ascend will offer high-quality bespoke growth advice to business, as well as a £3 million scale-up loan fund.

It will be run with assistance from the University of Derby and will support ambitious local companies to develop and implement growth plans and secure investment.

Councillor Chris Poulter, leader of Derby City Council, said the aim of the Ascend programme was to develop ‘an entrepreneurial eco-system’ in Derby.

He said: “We want to make our city a fantastic place to establish and grow a business, to create high-quality and sustainable jobs while, at the same time, supporting and diversifying the local economy.”

The Ascend team is seeking to support up to 50 businesses over the next two years and has appointed an expert panel – including senior officials from the council and university, business advisors, investors and entrepreneurs – to consider applications.

David Williams, chairman of law firm Geldards and deputy chair of the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership, has been appointed to the Ascend selection panel.

He said: “As we look to move past the pandemic and to a brighter future, I am delighted to be involved in the Ascend initiative to ensure Derby and the wider region can build back stronger from Covid-19.

“It’s vitally important we support Derby businesses to recover and unlock their potential to secure investment and create sustainable growth for our local economy.”

Derby County Football Club owner Mel Morris has also been appointed as an Ascend ambassador.

He said: “Ascend delivers a unique combination of expertise and resources designed to support Derby businesses grow and realise their full potential.

“I’m delighted to support such a positive initiative that proactively drives business success, creates new high-quality jobs and build a stronger, more diverse local economy.”

Businesses chosen to participate in the scheme will receive expert assistance to develop and implement their growth strategies, and, where appropriate, prepare an investment case for equity investors or access loans for capital investment where traditional finance is not available.

The scheme will be open to businesses based within eight miles of Derby city centre who commit to creating jobs for Derby residents, graduates or students.

Luxury doughnut-maker Project D, which has recently created 100 jobs and moved into a new bakery in Spondon, has been chosen to help pilot the project and will receive expert support to further develop its business.

Max Poynton, from Project D, said: “We are delighted to have been chosen to pilot this scheme.

“In the last 12 months, Project D has been able to evolve and expand at a significant pace and we are now delivering our doughnuts across England and Wales.

“We are still enormously ambitious and want to continue on this trajectory, so we will really benefit from receiving expert advice.

“This scheme will mean we can work with some specialist advisors, such as a production and supply chain specialist, to help us grow and scale the business in a sustainable way.”

The University of Derby will help deliver learning and development within businesses chosen to take part in the Ascend programme.

Professor Kamil Omoteso, pro vice-chancellor dean of the College of Business, Law and Social Sciences, said: “We are very pleased to be involved in this initiative and to be able to provide support to local businesses.

“As a member of Derby’s Economic Recovery Task Force, we take seriously the responsibility we have as a university to work with our city as it recovers from the coronavirus pandemic.

“It is crucial that businesses have the opportunity to access support so that they can achieve their maximum potential and thrive, helping to drive forward the regeneration of our city.”

The Derby economic recovery strategy, of which Ascend is a part, has three core aims – to stimulate business and investor confidence in the city, diversify the local economy and enable decarbonisation.

Major initiatives within the city’s economic recovery strategy include supporting the development of the £300 million SmartParc food campus on the former Celanese site, near Spondon, and developing a new 3,500-capacity city centre performance venue as part of the £200 million redevelopment of the Becketwell area by Leeds-based St James Securities.


Chris Poulter said: “While it is vital that, as part of our recovery strategy, we work with external investors such as SmartParc and St James Securities, whose developments will generate thousands of new jobs in Derby, it is equally important that we assist existing businesses to exploit their potential and create further employment.

“We will bring in experts in leadership, business modelling, growth strategy, financial planning and technology development to nurture the ambitions of our brightest companies and help them achieve their potential.”

The Ascend programme will officially launch later in the spring but companies can already register their interest by e-mailing

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