A £2.1m pot of cash is up for grabs to help create jobs and boost business in this area.
The fund – called Bridging the Gap – is the first of its kind in the UK and was unveiled this morning.
It is available to small and medium-sized businesses in the Portsmouth, Gosport and Havant areas that need help to start up or to grow.
The money has come from the government’s Regional Growth Fund, and was won thanks to hard work by the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership, The News, the University of Portsmouth and local authorities.
It is part of a number of schemes which will see between £20m and £30m pumped into the region’s economy within the next few years.
Caroline Collings, of the Federation of Small Businesses, has been working on the fund.
She said: ‘This is going to make a humongous difference, a huge difference to businesses and the local economy.
‘Businesses are going to grow, there’ll be jobs available, people will get training.
‘I have a list of about 10 businesses who have been waiting for this launch for about six months and are desperate to apply for the money.’
One of those firms, Portset Accessible Technology Solutions, which has an office in Portsmouth, wants to apply for part of the fund to help pay for new product development and for graduate and undergraduate staff from the university.
Its owner Graham Thomas said: ‘We want to employ people from the university and for that we need funding.’
Brian Basford, of Technograph Microcircuits in Farlington, has been waiting for the fund launch.
He said: ‘We would use the money to pay for new staff, apprenticeships and training.
‘It’s something we’d have to try and do anyway, but the money would make it a lot easier.’
Firms applying for the money will have to secure private financing in order to get a grant and banks were due to be at this morning’s launch at Lakeside, North Harbour, to find out how to help.
But there is potential for firms to win as much as £100,000 from the grant fund if they are exceptional.
Chairman of the Solent LEP, Doug Morrison, said: ‘We’re really excited about this, and we want to see it go to more areas in the Solent in the future.’
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