The 2007-13 national ERDF programme made substantial investments in business guidance, mentoring, finance support, research, innovation and resource efficiency projects. The Department for Communities & Local Government were keen to use counterfactual impact evaluation (CIE) to understand their impact on the English economy and draw lessons both for the design of the successor 2014-20 programme and its evaluation.
Regeneris Consulting worked alongside Cambridge Econometrics to match a sample of 90,000 SME beneficiaries with a comparison group drawn from the Interdepartmental Business Register (IDBR). We used difference-in-difference analysis to identify complex changes in the behaviour and performance of the supported businesses. We found some forms of support are effective and offer value for money, although significant shortcomings in the administrative data and the timing of the assessment limited the effectiveness of this type of analytical method.
The evaluation established an extensive evidence base to inform the design of the new national ERDF programme. It also generated important lessons on the use of counter-factual evaluation in major economic development programmes, many of which have been implemented by DCLG and BEIS and are now being incorporated into the design of the evaluation for the 2014-20 programme which is also being undertaken by Regeneris.
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