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Cumbria, Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Cheshire and Warrington
We will be supporting businesses in Cumbria, Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside and Cheshire & Warrington


Support for Business

ISTEP is delivered as part of the governments “Solutions for Business” Portfolio and is provided as part of the Innovation, Advice & Guidance product.

The purpose of this product is to provide businesses with expert knowledge and highly specialised, technical and advanced skills which they do not have themselves, enabling them to innovate and improve the performance of the business.

As such support through ISTEP must, in some manner, be seen to drive innovation.  ISTEP uses the innovation definition seen in the Government’s Innovation Strategy ‘Innovation Nation’ (March 2008):

“Innovation is the successful exploitation of new ideas. This recognises the importance of the creative spark, new knowledge and new ways of thinking.

“New” in this context can be new to the sector or the organisation, taking an idea from another context and adapting it to another. Improvements in products, services and quality often come from innovations in business processes, models, marketing and enabling technologies. Innovation happens in all service and manufacturing sectors and in the public and third sectors.”

Company Type

ISTEP is a project designed to deliver support to micro and small to medium enterprises (SMEs) as defined in The EC's Enterprise and Industry Publication: "The new SME definition - User guide and model declaration".  Headline criteria are: Annual turnover of ≤ €50M or an annual balance sheet total of ≤ €43M and 1 to 249 full time (equivalent) employees.

Company Location

ISTEP can assist companies based in the Northwest of England- i.e. anywhere within Cumbria, Lancashire, Cheshire & Warrington, Greater Manchester and Merseyside.

Postcode restrictions from previous rounds of funding no longer apply.

Industry Sector

ISTEP is intended to provide support to companies from the Digital and Creative Industries only.

Target Company Outputs

To justify entering on to the ISTEP project, companies must demonstrate that the support will have a clear and measurable impact on their business results in defined business benefits.  Impact is measured in ways like new or protected jobs and increases in business performance and a gross value added figure (GVA*). For more information on how and why we measure the impact of our support, see the FAQs section.

GVA measures the contribution to the economy of each individual producer, industry or sector in the UK - National Statistics GVA definition.  For ISTEP GVA is calculated as follows:

Total salary/wage costs + pre-tax profit + depreciation (for the last audited account year)
If you are not sure, please contact us to check.

We are unable to work with the following through ISTEP:

  • Those businesses that fall outside the definition of an SME
  • Companies carrying out business of a “retail” nature, e.g. businesses servicing an “off the street” or local market, for example shops, local builders, plumbers, etc. Local services have tendency to increase local competition which cannot be supported as it has the potential to distort the market.
  • Personal services, for example hairdressers, therapists, cafes, etc
  • Companies involved in the production and promotion of agricultural and first-stage food processing, synthetic fibres, motor vehicles, coal, steel and shipbuilding
  • Public services, banks and insurance companies

We are unable to provide the following through ISTEP:

  • Companies outside the digital and creative industries
  • Business Critical developments
  • Straightforward development e.g. brochure websites
  • Physical network installation
  • Producing market ready applications

Why do we have eligibility criteria?

ISTEP is delivered by InfoLab21 and part-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) was established by the European Commission in 1975 to stimulate economic development in less prosperous regions of the European Union (EU).

As EU membership has grown, ERDF has developed into a major funding stream to help redress regional imbalances.

In the Northwest, with a total of £521million (dependent on exchange rate) of ERDF funding between 2007 and 2013, the ERDF Programme will enhance the competitiveness of the region’s economy by supporting growth in employment and enterprise.  Managed by the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA), this is the largest ERDF programme in England.

More Information

To discuss your eligibility please contact Business Development Team

Nick King
tel: +44 (0)1524 510447
mob: +44 (0)7772 175777

Colin McLaughlin
tel: +44 (0)01524 510443
mob: +44 (0)7810 768265