County council chiefs say they are determined to continue to build on the success of a cross-Channel business support programme which ends this month after four years.
The Innovative Sector Exchange (ISE) project was part-financed by the European Interreg 2 Seas Programme and provided free support to hundreds of businesses in Kent and neighbouring regions across the Channel - Hauts-de-France, East and West Flanders in Belgium and the South West of the Netherlands.
It helped small firms make connections in other parts of Europe and to better understand how to adapt products and services for international markets. Kent County Council led the project in partnership with the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, Chambers of Commerce in Belgium and innovation support agencies in the Netherlands and Northern France.
Cllr Mike Whiting, KCC’s cabinet member for economic development, said: "Although the ISE project is formally ending, Kent’s links with our partners in mainland Europe are still very active through the European Straits Initiative.
"With our partners in mainland Europe, we want to build on the success of ISE and find new ways to continue to help Kent companies to connect and do business with their counterparts across the Channel."
Nearly 300 local businesses were offered a range of free activities including workshops, an online innovation summit, 1-2-1 innovation assessments and an in-depth programme of cross-border events which brought companies together from both sides of the Channel.
ISE also organised visits to some of Europe’s biggest trade shows to help companies to make new contacts and to see how they could respond to the latest market trends.
We want to find new ways to continue to help Kent companies to connect and do business with their counterparts across the Channel.
The project focused on four main industry sectors; agri-food, digital and creative, new materials and mechatronics. The digital and creative sector companies which joined the project are about to launch a cross-border cluster called Imagineers International which will enable the businesses to keep in contact and work together in the future.