The Food Processing, Marketing and Co-Operation (FPMC) grant scheme aims to support the development of food and drink processing businesses throughout Scotland by partially funding capital and non-capital projects. It has to date awarded almost £60 million to 119 projects.
FPMC aims to be a last resort fund, accessible to those whose projects could not proceed without it. It also aims to support small and large businesses across dairy, meat, fruit and vegetable, cereal, alcohol, and eggs sectors in all regions of Scotland.
In light of the planned EU-exit on October 31st 2019, it is important to assess EU-funded schemes such as FPMC to help inform decisions as to whether funding should be continued or modified.
This report evaluates FPMC’s 2014-2020 programme period.
It focusses on applicants’ and experts’ experiences of application and assessment procedures, and assess how the applicants projects adhered to the objective of the scheme and those of the Scottish Government. Broadly those objectives centre around helping Scotland to become a wealthier, healthier, and more environmentally sustainable nation.
Mixed-methods analyses of recorded project data alongside stakeholder surveys and interviews were used. Most of the projects are ongoing and therefore this evaluation is indicative not absolute.
Key Findings: Meeting the FPMC Objectives
There is evidence to show that FPMC is having a positive impact on the Scottish economy, population health, and environmental sustainability. However, these contributions were not evenly spread between different sectors, indicating possible areas for improvement.
The meat sector contributed the most to the job market and cost efficiencies (grant cost per job, turnover, pre-tax profits). The alcohol sector meanwhile contributed least to jobs, cost efficiencies, population health, and the environment.
Evidence shows that high proportion of businesses benefitted from multiple FPMC awards over several funding rounds. Successful applicants were also more likely to have used an agent to help them in their application, and were less likely to approached FPMC as a last resort fund. This could be counter to the aims of the fund as a ‘last resort’ programme.
Key Findings: application and assessment procedures
Most applicants were satisfied with the application process overall. The main desires for achievable change were:
- better and more transparent guidance;
- more flexibility;
- targeted support for smaller businesses;
- revision of the current rules preventing projects’ to begin before the application outcome is confirmed
There was also consistent concern around the use of agents which was perceived as inequitable especially for smaller businesses that were less able to afford agents’ fees.
Experts were generally content with the assessment panel’s function. However they echoed concerns about use of agents, and that smaller businesses may be disadvantaged.
- To improve applicants’ guidance materials, including more information on the application process, such as what to expect and when to expect it and what makes projects more or less likely to be successful.
- To better support smaller businesses, for example by enhancing flexibility to take account of their lack of resources (records, agents/administrative staff, financial capital) available to boost an application, relative to larger and more experienced competitors.
- To consider the suitability of alcohol and non-capital projects on the scheme.
- To consider the possibility of additional support for the grants team to assist them in tasks including grant recovery from projects that fail to meet their conditions.
- To improve monitoring in order to provide future evaluations with better quality and quantity of data for analysis.
- Further research in order to help minimise current limitations of data informing this evaluation.
- To consider the opportunity for changes post Brexit, namely to:
- allow projects to commence at their own risk before confirmation of their application to reduce delays that currently impact business’ functionality
- To explore suitable EU-replacement funding sources