WORCESTERSHIRE County Council is urging businesses across the county to start 2013 by signing up for a new grant to help reduce running costs.

The county council, working in partnership with Herefordshire and Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce, has been awarded funding from the West Midlands European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) programme to support small and medium-sized enterprises in becoming more resource efficient.

Businesses can qualify for grants and free assessments to help reduce costs of energy, waste, water and raw materials and improve profitability.

The free assessments on offer involve providing businesses with a practical appraisal of their current premises, equipment, processes and performance to identify opportunities to reduce energy consumption and waste and improve use of water and raw materials.

Businesses will receive a comprehensive report and advice, including changes that can be introduced at little to no cost. They can then also apply for a grant to make other improvements more affordable by contributing up to 45 per cent to projects costing up to £15,000.

Grants can cover the installation of energy-efficient equipment such as heating, insulation and ventilation, in addition to supporting water-saving measures and programmes for better use of waste and recycling.

The grants are intended to help businesses significantly reduce the costs of introducing efficiency measures, while helping improve their environmental credentials.

To be eligible for an assessment or grant a business must be located in and trading from Worcestershire in a field other than agriculture or retail, employ fewer than 250 employees and have a turnover of under 50 million Euros - about £40 million.

The funding is available to businesses until March 2015. They are encouraged, however, to sign up quickly to be able to take advantage of the free assessments and grants as soon as possible.

Norman Price, deputy chairman of the West Midlands ERDF Local Management Committee, said: "Over recent years small businesses have been faced by high and fluctuating energy costs, resulting in significant risk to profits and, in some cases, viability.

“For issues such as this, ERDF funding is the perfect solution to step in and help support local businesses.

"Evidence has shown that significant cost savings, commercial benefits and carbon emission reductions can be achieved through improvements to energy efficiency and investment in this area.

“This programme will help make that investment through the offer of free energy and resource assessments to businesses, outlining possible improvements and the option to make these a reality through available grants."

The county council's cabinet member for the environment, Conservative Anthony Blagg, said: "This is a great opportunity for businesses in Worcestershire to benefit from funding that will both help with running costs and put in place measures to cut costs in future while raising their green credentials."

Cassie Bray, head of business engagement at Herefordshire and Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce, said: "Many small and medium-sized enterprises are keen to focus on resource efficiency and acknowledge that they could make savings.

“This project will provide companies with focussed solutions that could generate significant cost savings, impacting positively on the profitability of businesses across the county."

For more information or to register for an assessment, call 01905 822833 or visit business-central.co.uk/resource-efficiency-grants