Businesses across Northumberland are set to benefit from a superfast broadband project aimed at developing a thriving digital economy following European investment.

The iNorthumberland Digital Economy Programme will create access to an improved broadband network infrastructure for eligible businesses in Northumberland, ensuring their sustainability, competitiveness and growth. It is anticipated that over 2,600 businesses will benefit from this connectivity.

A specialised and innovative online resource known as the Digital Economy Centre for Excellence will also be developed and is aiming to attract 2,119 active small and medium enterprises users by 2015. This is aiming to provide an innovative digital business support package hosting a wealth of resources which can be streamed live, interactive or downloaded on demand. This will ensure that businesses get the support they need, when they need it, reinventing the way in which business support is traditionally delivered.

This resource will lead to 293 jobs being created, 20 safeguarded and increase the number of businesses that have a broadband connection from 79.8% to 95% by 2015.

The European Regional Development Fund Competitiveness Programme 2007- 2013, which is managed by the Department for Communities and Local Government, is investing £2.74m in iNorthumberland Digital Economy Programme, led by Northumberland County Council who is providing the match funding.

Communities Minister Baroness Hanham CBE said:

“It is essential all businesses can develop and be part of the digital economy allowing them to reap the associated rewards and their growth potential, so I am delighted the European Regional Development Fund is helping businesses in Northumberland.

“This project will provide the correct infrastructure where it is most needed and ensure businesses receive the necessary support to maximise the benefits, cultivating innovation to strengthen businesses and contribute to the growth of the local and national economy.”

The programme will be delivered by Arch, Northumberland’s Development Company. European Regional Development Fund investment will only be used to fund last mile connectivity; infrastructure that is ‘necessary and sufficient’ to connect eligible SMEs to a core Point of Presence (PoP) – which is the point at which the network leaves the national backhaul.

Northumberland County Council’s Deputy Chief Executive, Kate Roe, said:

“Broadband is widely acknowledged as a key enabler for economic growth. This project will provide small and medium enterprises with the support and access to maximise the opportunities the Digital Economy brings.”

The European Regional Development Fund Competitiveness Programme 2007-13 is bringing over £300m into North East England to support innovation, enterprise and business support. It will help create and safeguard 28,000 new jobs, start 3,000 new businesses and increase the productivity by £1.1bn per annum.

If you are a business in Northumberland and want to demonstrate your support for the project then please complete our business survey

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