Northern Ireland

£70m investment fund announced for small businesses in Northern Ireland

Representatives of the British Business Bank are pictured with the fund managers of the Investment Fund for Northern Ireland from Clarendon Fund Managers and Whiterock Capital
Representatives of the British Business Bank are pictured with the fund managers of the Investment Fund for Northern Ireland from Clarendon Fund Managers and Whiterock Capital Representatives of the British Business Bank are pictured with the fund managers of the Investment Fund for Northern Ireland from Clarendon Fund Managers and Whiterock Capital

A £70 million investment fund for small businesses in Northern Ireland has been announced by the British Business Bank.

The fund will offer a range of commercial finance options with loans and equity stakes both available for local entrepreneurs.

By increasing the supply and diversity of early-stage finance for smaller businesses, the new fund aims to tackle an identified funding gap throughout Northern Ireland.

It will support businesses from all sectors in Northern Ireland and at different stages of their growth journey, and aims to target start-ups that may have struggled to access finance elsewhere.

The Investment Fund for Northern Ireland is one of a series of nations and regions investment funds being launched by the Bank, which will deliver a £1.6 billion commitment of new funding to smaller businesses across the UK.

Chief executive of the British Business Bank, Louis Taylor, said the fund would tackle a number of issues, including regional inequality in investment across the UK.

“Firstly, the lack of finance, most particularly equity finance in Northern Ireland for businesses that need investment to grow,” he said.

“But the second thing is we really want to demonstrate to the fund management community across the UK and beyond that there’s good money to be made out of investing in areas outside of this golden triangle of London, Oxford and Cambridge.

“And so we hope that the returns on the fund will encourage other fund managers to come into the region, because more money in the region backing more companies will lead to more companies being started and more companies needing backing.

“It’s a virtuous circle, we’re very convinced of that.”

Louis Taylor, CEO British Business Bank (Jago Communications)

Mr Taylor said the Windsor Framework agreement improved Northern Ireland’s investment prospects.

“I think that we’ve seen a real uptick in interest in investment in Northern Ireland from not only other UK companies, but from overseas as well,” he said.

“I know there was an investment summit just a couple of months ago all around this, and I think that the Windsor framework agreement does provide some benefit to Northern Ireland and improves its prospects and actually improves the perception of the region in the minds of international investors, which is all a good thing.

“But it’s about realising the potential that all that offers, that’s the most important thing.”

There has not been a functioning government in Northern Ireland for over a year due to the DUPs ongoing boycott of power-sharing institutions in protest against post-Brexit trading arrangements including the Windsor Framework.

Mr Taylor said an executive in place would be advantageous to Northern Ireland from an investment perspective.

“I’m not going to deny that having a functioning executive would be an advantage, I think for the market, but the positivity we’ve seen in the last few months has come despite the lack of the executive, and I think there’s some fundamental commerce there that really is just good, and good enough, whatever the political weather,” he said

“Clearly stability is an important element to any business investment decision, so we look forward to a day when the executive is back and operational, again, because that can only be even more positive for the region, which already has good prospects.”

Following the fund launch, the Bank will be holding a series of roadshows aimed at stakeholders working in the access to finance ecosystem.

These will take place in the new year at a number of locations across Northern Ireland.

The British Business Bank is the economic development bank wholly owned by the Department for Business and Trade, but operationally independent.