Local newspaper groups have been struggling for years in the digital age, but now Google has promised to help at least one British publisher find new ways of trying to make local digital news commercially viable.

The US tech giant, which along with Facebook has often been accused of undermining local news organisations, has formed a three-year partnership with Archant, a Norwich-based publisher founded in 1845 with more than 50 weekly titles and four daily newspapers in its portfolio.

Probably best-known in the UK as the publisher of the Eastern Daily Press and The New European, Archant will work with Google to build digital news platforms in three British communities that are currently underserved by local news.

According to a blog post on Google, the project – named Project Neon – will create these news platforms “in a concerted effort to reverse the commercial challenges local news publishers have faced in the past decade”.

Google is reported to be investing several million dollars into the joint venture, although Archant will have 100% ownership and control of the new businesses created through the initiative.

Google will share its digital expertise, ranging from business models to website design, but will have “no input whatsoever” in any editorial decision-making.

“It’s no secret that in recent years, our industry has been more challenged than at any other time in its history. But local news is as important as ever, and if we are going to find a sustainable digital-only model, it is bold experiments such as Project Neon that will help provide a pathway to thriving local news,” said Matt Kelly, chief content officer at Archant.

“With support and expertise from the Google News Initiative, I believe Archant has the potential to deliver exciting new solutions for local news brands, not only in the UK but also in other parts of the world where the local news business is in decline.”

He added that Archant and Google will share results from the project with other publishers, so fitting in with the philosophy of the $300m Google News Initiative, which was launched last year.

Project Neon is Google’s second joint venture with a news publisher following a similar initiative in the US with McClatchy that was announced in March this year.

Sourced from Google, Archant; additional content by WARC staff