£300k innovation fund launched to boost Covid recovery for culture firms

A fund of more than £300,000 has been launched to help culture businesses adapt, innovate and diversify in the face of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Small and medium-sized businesses, alongside sole traders and freelancers, can apply for the Cultural Development and Innovation Fund to help them bring forward new ways of working to help them thrive in response to the outbreak.

These could include developing new products, forging new partnerships, engaging with new markets or making use of new technologies to support growth in the culture sector.

Businesses focused on visual or performing arts, heritage, film and TV, music or literature are eligible to apply.

Those with a turnover of more than £100,000 can apply for grants of up to £25,000 with those with a turnover of less than £100,000 eligible for grants of up to £10,000.

The move comes following the success earlier this year of the Welcome Back, Back to Business and new apprenticeship funds, launched by Tees mayor Ben Houchen.

The Welcome Back fund, as part of the £1m Cultural Industries and Visitor Economy Programme, supported the safe reopening of bars, pubs, restaurants and venues.

The £1.25m Back to Business fund helped companies in those sectors and many others access new equipment, technologies and professional support as they too reopened.

The mayor also previously pledged almost £1million to create 100 new apprentices aged 16-20 across the Tees Valley and, just days ago, the fund hit its target of 100 roles created.

Mayor Houchen said: “I’m delighted to be able to announce this funding – the next part of our targeted support for some of the sectors most hit by coronavirus – backing our incredible cultural and creative businesses and individuals.

“In our immediate response to the coronavirus pandemic, we had to move quickly and reactively to give a boost to those pubs, restaurants, hotels and attractions that were immediately impacted. This allowed them to open their doors safely once again and protect jobs.

“We then expanded our help to get businesses in other sectors up and running and, after speaking to bosses across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool, I had to make sure opportunities were still there for young people with my emergency apprenticeship fund.

“Now we can focus on another sector in need of assistance. Culture is an industry that is well used to adaptation, innovation and thinking outside of the box, but we know that it’s not always easy to find the cash to get vital projects off the ground, to forge new partnerships or experiment with new technology that could ensure long-term success.

“I’d encourage anyone with a well-developed plan of how their business can develop to meet the challenges they face, thrive and grow to apply.”

Councillor Shane Moore, combined authority cabinet lead for culture and tourism, said: “It’s really important that we help our local cultural sector and creative industries during the severe challenges they face from the Coronavirus pandemic.

“They enrich and enhance our lives, and the pleasure, happiness and inspiration they bring will never be more needed or welcome than when we finally emerge from this crisis.

“I would very much encourage them to come forward and apply for this funding.”

Businesses interested in applying for funding can find more information or register their interest by visiting teesvalleybusiness.com/cultural-development-and-innovation-fund/. Expressions of Interest close on Friday, October 30.