Business leaders gathered at The Future of Funding for Small Business Support this week to debate what needs to happen to shore up future finance for entrepreneurs across the UK. They have warning that the UK faces a business support “cliff edge” when the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) ends in 12 months time.

The fund finances local regeneration and early-stage local businesses alongside helping start-ups and creating jobs. However, with the scheme scheduled to close in March 2025, and no current plan for extension, Cllr Beverley Neilsen warned that “Small businesses are facing quite a cliff edge at the moment and we don’t know what’s happening.

“It takes months to plan the schemes that use UKSPF funding, so it will not be good if news about the funding comes through at the last minute, we need to know now.

“Combined Authorities have had time to organise and shift towards a devolved approach, but we don’t know what happens in a two-tier system. Half of all new jobs are created by SMEs scaling up. The only thing that is clear is that failure to address this issue will be detrimental to local economies.”

Richard Jeffery, national director at The Growth Company, said: “Not every area of the country fully understands the deep benefits that business support can bring. Focusing on creating a thriving business base can solve lots of wider challenges faced by places.

“Supporting local SMEs is not just about new jobs, with a thriving base of SMEs you get better jobs, better business, more innovation and businesses that can contribute so much to local places – these are the key points.”

The event, hosted by small business support platform and membership community Enterprise Nation alongside Mastercard’s Strive UK programme, also suggested there could be a role for Open Finance and artificial intelligence to enable an efficient targeting of the right support at the right time.

Enterprise Nation runs its Make a Plan initiative in partnership with Mastercard’s Strive UK programme which is a free digital tool that helps businesses build skills and develop plans for growth.

Natasha Jamal, Vice President, Social Impact, Mastercard, said: “Small businesses need fast, effective and easy access to support. That’s why we’ve worked with Enterprise Nation to build a one stop shop where entrepreneurs can access the resources they need from a single platform. Tech plays an enormous role in providing support to small businesses, enabling access to resources which are targeted and helping businesses make better decisions by using data.”