HLEP – SMEs are core foundation of Hertfordshire’s strategy to build back from COVID-19

Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has recently published its Enterprise and Innovation Strategy. Read on to find out more…

The Hertfordshire Enterprise and Innovation Strategy 2021-2025 sets out ambitions for economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Drawing on the county’s strengths and focusing on small businesses which overwhelmingly make up the economy, the strategy proposes initiatives under five key pillars with sustainability at its core.

Small businesses are at the heart of a sharpened vision to drive enterprise, innovation and economic growth in Hertfordshire post-COVID-19 and beyond.

Led by Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), the Hertfordshire Enterprise and Innovation Strategy 2021-2025 launches a roadmap for recovery from the pandemic and features practical measures to support businesses.

Hertfordshire is a dynamic knowledge economy with an impressive range of global companies attracted by the area’s skills, location and quality of life. Yet the economy consists primarily of micro businesses and SMEs, with 61 active businesses for every 1,000 working-age residents – above the England average of 47. It is these businesses that will be supported to scale up and increase productivity through the strategy’s initiatives.

Click here to read the strategy

Key themes

With societal, economic and environmental concerns influencing the pace of change, the key delivery themes of strategy include:

  • Enhancing the gateway to business support
  • Supporting entrepreneurs
  • Ensuring space is available for enterprise
  • Driving catalytic sectors
  • Skills availability

Nitin Dahad, Chair of Hertfordshire LEP’s Enterprise & Innovation Board and LEP SME Champion, said: “This strategy reflects and addresses the emerging challenges from COVID-19 and the need to help Hertfordshire ‘Build Back Better’. We want to strengthen and simplify the business support offer, and the importance of digitisation and technology in driving growth is reflected in our strategy. 

“The development of local innovation ecosystems is a key policy objective and to make up for lost economic capacity over the past 12 months we need to intensify start-up provision and continue to focus on the scale-up of our innovative, high-growth SMEs.

“As an entrepreneur and business leader, I know inspirational leadership goes hand in hand with business success. If SME owner-managers are to become effective leaders of transformational change we need to invest in skills development. By building in future resilience into the very DNA of our SMEs through targeted resources, we can achieve our goal of higher levels of commercial success and prosperity.”   

Practical measures

The LEP will look to improve the coordination and delivery of business support in the county and help SMEs secure access to markets, finance and skills more easily. Entrepreneurs from all sections of society will be helped to exploit opportunities through the adoption and take up of digital technologies and through best practice management programmes focused on businesses with scale-up potential.

Selling abroad will be promoted through the Department for International Trade’s Export Academy and the LEP aims to establish a pilot “angel network” of private investors.

More flexible co-working space will be created, potentially through short-term use of vacant units in high streets. To address skills gaps, young people will be educated on enterprise concepts, with entrepreneurial opportunities highlighted on the Hertfordshire Opportunities Portal.

The county’s most productive and innovative sectors will be supported to expand. These include: 

  • Advanced Manufacturing, drawing on the success of companies including Airbus and Smiths Detection.
  • Cultural and Creative, particularly film, with Warner Bros. Studios Leavesden and the BBC based in Elstree.
  • Life Sciences: a Government-designated Opportunity Zone taking in Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst, GlaxoSmithKline and the Cell and Gene Therapy Catapult Manufacturing Centre.
  • Construction, including BRE, Willmott Dixon, Vinci, Skanska, and VolkerFitzpatrick.

The Enterprise and Innovation Strategy has been published following stakeholder consultation and is one in a suite of strategic statements being developed by the LEP to guide Hertfordshire beyond Brexit and the pandemic into the 2030s.