The 2020/2021 UK Government Peer Networks Programme  

Peer Networks is a national initiative delivered locally in England through the Local Enterprise  Partnership (LEP) network and their respective Growth Hubs. The programme’s longer-term aims are  focused on reducing the UK productivity gap by helping business leaders find practical solutions to strategic  and operational challenges. It also forms part of the Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and  the ongoing EU transition, seeking to improve the resilience of SMEs, their capability to adapt their business  models to the “new normal” and position themselves for future success, driving longer-term productivity  gains. Peer Networks is only operational in England. 

The programme created of a series of Peer Networks (cohorts) through the Growth Hub network,  with each group consisting of 8-11 owners or managers from the SME business community participating in  each network.

Led by an experienced facilitator, these Peer Networks typically met fortnightly delivering 18 hours of action learning through 2-3-hour sessions.

Active involvement in the Peer Network enhances the  leadership capabilities, knowledge and confidence of business owners and entrepreneurs within a local  region. It will help build local connectivity and strength within the SME business community. 

The Peer Networks Programme was funded by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy  (BEIS) in response to a commitment made in the 2019 Business Productivity Review. The case for this government funded programme is that there is evidence business leader peer networks can contribute to tackling the UK’s productivity challenge. Further details of the BEIS business case for the peer networks programme and its role in tackling the UK productivity challenge can be found here.

Building on these findings the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, has committed £9m to  strengthen local peer-to-peer networks with a further £4m available subject to demand.

Peer networks are focused on business improvement so that thousands of business leaders can share and benefit from  expertise on leadership, business development and technology adoption.

Whilst the long-term objective of  this initiative is to drive up productivity and help close the gap with the UK’s international competitors, this is  exactly the support businesses need now to develop the skills to tackle issues they face in relation to COVID 19.

As these networks will continue at least to the end of March it is expected that they will also be useful in  preparing SMEs for the end of the EU transition period and entry into a new trading environment. 

Funding will be channelled through the LEP network and developed and delivered locally through Growth  Hubs. 

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