The Marketing Development Scheme was introduced in June 1994, replacing the Group Marketing Grant (introduced in April 1992). Both schemes were intended to improve the efficiency of the UK's food marketing chain by helping to raise the level of marketing and commercial expertise.
The MDS offered a discretionary grant of up to £150,000 on a range of non-capital projects with payments spread over a period up to 4 years. There has been a financial provision of some £2.4 million per annum. Since April 1992, around £15 million of grant has been committed to some 250 businesses across the UK.
On 5 November 1996, the MDS closed to new applications in England. This followed the transfer of uncommitted funds to the DTI's new 'Sector Challenge', a competition to help increase the competitiveness of all sectors of the UK's economy. The Scheme remains open, however, in the rest of the UK where the Sector Challenge does not apply to proposals falling within the terms of the MDS.
In broad terms, the evaluation will involve a rigorous and objective assessment of the operation of the Marketing Development Scheme and its predecessor, the Group Marketing Grant, in England.