NPS One year on Midlands Engine Update proves hugely successful

Almost a year to the day since NPS held it’s first event to raise awareness of the Midlands Engine Investment Fund, Professional Advisers and business owners from across the Midlands, once again attended our ‘One Year On’ breakfast seminar at BioCity on Thursday 16th May 2019, to see how they could access the £250m fund.

Over 75 professionals attended the briefing which featured presentations from four MEIF fund managers who outlined the opportunities available for businesses. This included how they can access the £250m fund, which can provide loans of between £25,000 and £1.5m and also proof of concept/equity finance from £50,000 to £2m.

Midlands Engine Investment Fund BriefingThe MEIF, supported by the European Regional Development Fund, provides commercially focused finance through Small Business Loans, Debt Finance, Proof of Concept and Equity Finance Funds. The aim of the fund is to transform the finance landscape for smaller businesses in the East Midlands in order to realise the region’s economic growth potential. The MEIF is a collaboration between the British Business Bank and ten LEPs across the Midlands.

Lewis Stringer, MEIF Senior Manager at British Business Bank, hosted the breakfast seminar on behalf of NPS and highlighted the significance of the breakfast briefing and the fund itself to help reduce the regional disparities in available funding opportunities for businesses located outside of London and the South East. He stated that as of 31stMarch, 137 investments had been made totalling £25m in 127 businesses, across all Midlands LEPs.

It was at this point that the fund managers were then each given time to present to the audience their information on how businesses within the Midlands region could access the finance that suited their needs.

Victoria Copestake, Business Development Manager at First Enterprise, explained that her firm had £13m funding to offer through loans ranging from £25k to £150k. She stated that the funding First Enterprise offered was available to start ups, micro businesses and SME’s who would contribute towards regional growth.

Jonathan Lowe, Investment Director at Maven Capital Partners, stated that Maven was responsible for managing a fund of £90m split £50m to West Midlands and £40m to East and South East Midlands, with Maven able to offer loans to eligible businesses ranging between £100,000 and £1.5m. He explained their Investment process and that funds would only be granted to established businesses, not start-ups.

Sandy Reid, Investment Manager at Mercia Funds, expressed she was responsible for managing the Proof of Concept and Early Stage Funds. Mercia manages a fund of £23m across the Midlands which is to be granted to technology focussed businesses who demonstrated global market potential. Sandy explained that Mercia were able to grant loans between £100k and £750k.

Jordan Lavender, Investment Analyst at Foresight Group, stated that Foresight managed a fund of £35m which is intended to be given through deals varying from £50k to £2m. He explained that Foresight had specific funding criteria and were looking for exciting growth businesses that required equity funding to help launch new products or had a strong management team.

As last year the MEIF initiative was in it’s infancy, a key difference to this year’s event was the ability to bring on stage two businesses who had already received funding via the MEIF.

Jonathan Valentine from Renato Software and David Zulman from Firetree Chocolate, both gave insight into the processes of applying for the funding and how the fund had helped their respected businesses achieve their growth objectives.

Jonathan added that the funding had enabled him to grow his business from 4 staff to 13 in the space of a year and that Renato Software were now able to service over 2,000 schools.

David also stated that the equity funding they received from Foresight Group, had enabled the management team at Firetree Chocolate to start the business and with further investment, over the past 12 months, gain significant market share over other premium chocolate brands.

In a post presentation Q&A, the fund managers were asked what were the most important factors to consider when applying for grant funding – here’s an overview of the top tips they shared:

  • Sandy Reid, stressed the importance of working with a professional advisor who could help create a business plan. She stated that you’d be surprised at how many businesses are not properly prepared, when applying for funding.
  • Jordan Lavender, answered the question from a different perspective. He advised that when business owners are looking at equity finance, they should be prepared to relinquish some control of their business.

The event was jointly organised by NPS committee members Dan Bowtell from Smith Cooper and Tom Gray of Fraser Brown.

Commenting on the event, Dan Bowtell said, “The role of NPS is to arrange events which help businesses and advisers in Nottingham to work together and create economic prosperity for our region. By arranging this event here in Nottingham, we are helping to raise awareness and provide valuable knowledge to local business on the various avenues they can take when looking to access funding.”

The next NPS event will be our flagship event, our annual Summer Ball, on Thursday 4th July. This year’s theme will be ‘Hollywood Heroes’ in recognition of Americas Independence Day.

For more information about booking tickets please click here.