SMALL business will benefit from continued support as a growth specialist has been bought in for the next four years.

The Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) has awarded a contract to Oxford Innovation to run a Business Growth Hub from 2017.

The contract was awarded through a European Regional Development Fund Call issued in April 2016.

The Business Growth Hub will be the 'first stop shop' for business support across Berkshire and will helping them take advantage of national and regional support programmes, increase jobs and raise levels of exporting.

Peter Read, Chairman of the LEP, said: "Access to high quality, relevant business support and advice is a key barrier to Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) growth.

"With over 43,000 businesses and one of the highest proportions of fast growing firms in England, it is imperative that Berkshire's businesses are able to tap into their full potential and receive support.

"We are thrilled with the impact the Business Growth Hub has made so far and look forward to this next phase with Oxford Innovation."

Since it was established in 2014, the Hub has created 177 jobs, directly engaged with 885 businesses and further assisted 356 businesses with £488,000 invested in grants.

Oxford Innovation will create Growth Hub touch points providing intensive one-to-one support and account management.

Jane Galsworthy, Director of Development at Oxford Innovation, said: “We are delighted to be able to work with Thames Valley Berkshire LEP and our partners to provide this highly valuable service to Berkshire businesses.

“Our experienced team has a long history of supporting businesses that are hungry for growth, to make their vision a reality."