The first round of the returned Birmingham Post Growth Fund has opened, with businesses able to bid for up to £100,000 to unlock investment plans.

The Post has promised to help create hundreds of jobs all over again after being awarded £5 million from the Regional Growth Fund for a second time.

The funding will be delivered in tranches by the Post and partner Bournville College - and only to businesses unlocking the potential to create jobs and wealth in Birmingham, Solihull and Coventry, with the first round now open.

It will culminate in a Dragons' Den-style event called Investors' Fortress in October, where a panel will select the businesses which can prove the funding will create long-term and sustainable jobs.

It will be the first of many rounds held before the end of 2015 at which businesses with fewer than 250 employees will be able to bid for funding.

The funding comes from the Government's Regional Growth Fund (RGF).

The Post's regional head of business Graeme Brown, who sits on the selection panel for the growth fund, said: "We were proud to have been among the very few RGF bidders to have been granted funds not once but twice by the Government.

"That is because we are focused on ensuring that these funds are invested wisely and for the good of local businesses and the region as a whole.

"When you are offering funding there are always one or two serial bidders.

"That is fine – we judge all bids on their merits – but we really want to hear from businesses aching to expand but which just want some help getting over the line.

"So if you are pondering expansion, investment or job creation, we want to hear from you.

"With a region back in growth, exports surging and employment on the rise again there are new possibilities and we want to do our bit to make the region reach its potential."

Principal of Bournville College Norman Cave
Principal of Bournville College Norman Cave

The Post and Bournville College have been given the money by government to distribute to companies throughout the region, and help to stimulate investment and unlock job creation.

It was among eight projects being funded in round five of the RGF, with a total of £31 million coming to the West Midlands.

The Post met its target for job creation with the first tranche of RGF money between 2012 and 2013 by helping to create 350 jobs.

The Birmingham Post Growth Fund will offer grants of between £10,000 and £100,000 for expansion and growth ideas and initiatives that will directly create jobs across Birmingham, Coventry and Solihull.

The objective is to stimulate private sector investment by providing support for businesses that offer potential for long term economic growth and the creation of additional sustainable private sector jobs.

The fund offers investment through the Investors' Fortress events, in which representatives from companies pitch to a panel who assess the need and potential of the bid.

The panel will quiz companies on their growth plan, recruitment proposals, training and marketing.

Companies will have to prove they will create jobs in the next 12 months and cannot have received more than 200,000 euros in public funding over the past three years.

Bournville College has a strong record in supporting innovation and enterprise through its business growth programmes.

Norman Cave, principal at Bournville College, said: "The previous round of the Regional Growth Fund delivered by the Birmingham Post in partnership with Bournville College, was hugely popular and enabled a number of businesses in the region to create jobs and deliver long-term growth.

"We're delighted to have successfully bid for new funds for the Birmingham sub-region and our continued business collaboration with the Birmingham Post will support further economic growth and help even more businesses in our region to flourish.

"There will be several application rounds announced over the next year."

The last Birmingham Post Growth Fund saw more than 60 firms receive a total of £5 million from the RGF towards growth plans, boosting the region's economy amid economic gloom.

Signage contractor Hollywood Monster, engineering firm FT Transformers, based in Kings Norton, Coventry manufacturing firm MarchantCain Design were among the bigger names to secure funding.

But the fund also helped smaller firms, like Soshi Games, which creates new revenue streams for the music industry through an online game where you can create your own music festival.

Creative agency ORB secured an offer for part of the £69,000 it was asking for as part of plans to expand – and ended up delivering more jobs than promised.

Another innovative firm to secure an offer from the panel was Coventry firm Plus 8 Industries, the company behind a range of bicycle security gadgets under the banner of Hiplok.

Dave Carruthers, founder and chief executive of VoxPopMe
Dave Carruthers, founder and chief executive of VoxPopMe
 

VoxPopMe, a mobile video platform that gives brands a new way of engaging consumers for feedback and opinion, also secured funding.

Chief executive Dave Carruthers said: "The growth funding received has allowed us to ramp up our core business team and our marketing activity, and since launching just over a year ago we are now working with over 25 leading brands including McDonalds, Sky, British Gas and EE.

"Over the next 12 months we will be launching VoxPopMe into a number of new territories including the US and Asia and scaling up the team further to meet the demand for our innovative customer feedback and consumer insight platform."

AceOn Group, which specialises in solar and portable energy products, won funding through the Birmingham Post Growth Fund to expand the global reach of SolarSDS, a plug and play electric solar generator which enables the user to access free electricity on the go.

The firm was also able to take over a failing competitor and save nine jobs.

Managing director Mark Thompson said: "Working with Bournville College over the last 12 months has had an enormous impact on our business.

"The training and support has been great but practically the team-building day was one the best days I've had in building team spirit for any of my organisations I've been involved in.

"Our focus and drive to become a major exporter for the worldwide market will have been helped by the training we've received."

Jennifer Stokes, senior assistant principal, external funding at Bournville College, said: "Building on the success of the previous grant programme, Bournville College, in partnership with the Birmingham Post, is really pleased to be managing another high-profile and exciting initiative.

"Through this grants scheme we want to provide a much-needed lifeline to innovative small businesses and enterprises in the region to enable them to grow and prosper in economically turbulent times and continue to provide a structure for creating real jobs and training to meet their specific needs."

To apply for funding visit www.bournville.ac.uk.