THREE new library-based business centres, including one in Hexham, could help Northumberland entrepreneurs “turn an idea into a successful business”.

The scheme, led by the British Library, is set to see three Business and IP Centres (BIPCs) set up in Hexham, Berwick, and Morpeth as part of a major expansion in the North-East.

And it is hoped the £690,000 project could be a boost to the region’s post-pandemic economy after the existing service in Newcastle helped protect about 600 jobs following the coronavirus outbreak.

Jeff Watson, Northumberland County Council’s cabinet member for Healthy Lives, said: “As we continue our recovery from the coronavirus pandemic we are doing all we can to encourage new businesses and help existing ones to grow.

“These hubs can play a key role for those seeking support and access with employment and skills.

“The centres will also support our climate change commitment by reducing the need for travel – allowing people who don’t have access to digital devices or the financial capacity to attend other parts of the country in person access to BIPC opportunities.”

Coun. Watson, whose brief includes responsibility for the county’s libraries, added the programme would help existing businesses expand, as well as providing a breeding ground for new ventures.

The British Library (BL) set up its first BIPC outside London in Newcastle in 2011 and since then has supported more than 14,000 new or expanding firms, offering resources such as up-to-date market research and business databases, as well as workshops and one-to-one mentoring.

A £13 million government grant has helped the scheme expand even further, with £690,000 of this to back six new centres in the North East.

As well as the three in Northumberland, further outposts are planned for North Shields, South Shields and Sunderland.

Jonathan Walker, director of policy at North East England Chamber of Commerce, said: “It is great news that Northumberland is to get three Business and IP centres.

“I’m sure they will be a real asset to the areas and help small businesses and start ups to succeed. We look forward to helping to connect them to the business community.”

Mayor of Hexham, Derek Kennedy, said it is “fantastic news”.

Coun. Kennedy said: “That would be a wonderful thing.

“It’s really good that Hexham has been selected.”