NORTH West businesses have until 6 July to enter the prestigious Venturefest 2017 Innovation Showcase contest. Organised by Business Growth Hub, part of the Manchester Growth Company, the competition is one of the highlights of the Venturefest Manchester 2017 programme. Open to businesses from across the North West, this year the competition has two awards – one for the best start-up business (trading for less than three years) and another for the best established business (three or more years trading). This is in recognition of the distinct differences impacting businesses in each category of the competition. Each award comes with a £20,000 business support package for the winner. The competition is free to enter, and all a business needs to do is fill in a short online form on the Venturefest Manchester website. If shortlisted for either category, the business will then receive pitching advice and support by finance specialists from within the Growth Hub and make a short three-minute presentation at Venturefest Manchester, which takes place at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall on Thursday 14 September. Last year eighty-eight small and medium-sized businesses entered the competition, and more than £1m of funding offers have since been made to participants. Richard Jeffery, director of Business Growth Hub, said; “We’ve already had a tremendous response, and it’s been fantastic to see the variety and quality of companies we have in the North West via the entries we’ve already received. I encourage every business owner to apply. As a minimum, entrants will receive some expert support from experienced growth advisors and could walk away with a prize package worth £20,000.” Entries for the 2017 Innovation Showcase are now open to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from across the North West until Thursday 6 July. To enter, please visit http://www.venturefestmanchester.com/#Competition. The winner of last year’s Innovation Showcase competition, Nothing But Epic, are also encouraging businesses to enter too, as it has blossomed since winning last year’s competition. Nothing But Epic’s managing director, Mike Anderson, said, “Off the back of the competition we’ve had successful validation of our Padoq product. We’ve done a round of investment, and we’ll be launching our product in the autumn. “The agency is going well – we hired three new staff within three months [of winning the award], and we’ve starting winning national accounts. Just last week, we were named a Rising Star of the UK tech scene by [business magazine] Business Cloud too.” Venturefest Manchester 2017 and the Innovation Showcase competition are both being run by Business Growth Hub. These and other Business Growth Hub projects are part-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the GM Business Growth Hub, which is designed to help ambitious SME businesses achieve growth and increase employment in Greater Manchester. Businesses looking to access specialist support can visit www.businessgrowthhub.com for more information about their extensive range of services.