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Accelerate could be saved.

Byline: GRAEME BROWN

utomotive support body Ac-celerate could be saved from AAAthe scrapheap as talks are taking place with another support group just days be -fore its funding runs dry.

Negotiations are ongoing for Manufacturing Advisory Service - West Midlands to deliver a car sector support programme, which could bring the organisation's services back from the brink. Funding for the body is set to end on March 31 after it became the latest victim of a tightening of Government spending.

Accelerate has been supporting automotive suppliers and component firms in the West Midlands for 14 years and representatives of the sector in the region say it has a vital role to play as carmakers seek to create a new generation of greener vehicles.

The body has sent a letter to directors of automotive firms informing them it will cease operations at the end of the month.

But a spokesman for development agency Advantage West Midlands (AWM) said: "The Accelerate programme has been a great success and Advantage West Midlands is committed to providing the region's automotive sector with a service to help companies innovate and take advantage of new market opportunities.

"The current Accelerate contract with Birmingham Chamber finishes at the end of March, but there are advanced plans for a refocused automotive industry support programme to be delivered by the Manufacturing Advisory Service from June, subject to final agreement.

"There will be interim arrangements in place from early April to ensure a continuity of service."

Accelerate, which is led by programme manager Rachel Eade, was kept going by short-term funding from AWM, but fears have been growing about its future amid a tightening in Government funding.

Speaking to the Birmingham Post in February, AWM chief executive Mick Laverty praised its work - including helping suppliers hit by major closures at Longbridge, Ryton and LDV - but said Accelerate had never managed to become self-financing.

According to Accelerate's figures, it worked with 800 companies last year, and referred nearly 200 for more intensive support.

Warren Gray, a director at automotive supplier Machined Component Systems, said Accelerate's role remains as important as ever.

Machined Component Systems, which employs 25 people in Redditch, has benefited from pounds 20,000 of grant funding to go towards new machinery on three occasions through Accelerate.

Mr Gray said he also attends network-k ing events with other automotive suppliers organised by the body, and believes its role remains as important as ever as troubles go on for car-makers.

He said: "We have had lots of tangible help from Accelerate in terms of cash support but a key thing we don't want to lose is the networking.

"We attend regular meetings with likeminded individuals, and that is important."

He added: "I think Accelerate is more valid than ever. When Accelerate started you could argue it came from a position of stress with Rover - that's gone now but it's never been so important to keep abreast of new technologies."

In a letter seen by the Birmingham Post, Accelerate said: "Accelerate, the business support specialist for the automotive supply chain in the West Midlands, is set to come to an end on March 31, 2010.

"During its successful 14-year programme, Accelerate has channelled pounds 80 million of investment into the West Midlands' supply chain and this dedicated assistance has resulted in pounds 534 million worth of new sales, created over 4,000 new jobs and safeguarded more than 29,000 jobs.

"All of this has been achieved against a backdrop of major consolidation within the region's automotive sector, which has seen the closures of the MG Rover, LDV and Browns Lane manufacturing plants and the worst global recession in our lifetime."

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Machined Component Systems director Warren Gray said Accelerates networking help had been vital
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Mar 25, 2010
Words:624
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