Andy Leach

NW Fund bids top 1,000

More than 140 applications a month are being been made to the North West Fund, a £185m debt and equity fund aimed at boosting the region's business base.

The North West Fund invested £4m in 20 businesses between its launch in 20 December 2010 and 30 June 2011. These deals include an investment of £375,000 in Chester-based e-learning systems provider Autology World; £320,000 invested in Blackburn's 4i Security; and a £400,000 investment into Runcorn-based fuel cell systems developer, ACAL Energy.

The fund has a further 19 deals that are approved pending completion, with 303 applications under active review by its six fund managers.

With landlords and occupiers eager to grasp any available public funding support to underpin expansion and relocation, the fund has an important role to play in driving the occupational market. The North West Fund is designed to provide debt and equity funding from £50,000 to £2m to small and medium sized enterprises based in, or relocating to, the North West of England. The funding is provided jointly by the European Investment Bank and European Regional Development Fund. There are several sub-funds including sector-specific pots for creative and digital, biomedical and energy.

Andy Leach, chief executive of North West Business Finance, the private not-for-profit company established to oversee the delivery of the North West Fund, said: "The first half of 2011 has been an exciting period for the North West Fund with 20 transactions making it over the line. Importantly, we enter the second half of the year with a full pipeline of deals under active consideration by our six fund managers and significant momentum. The investments that have been completed reflect the broad range of businesses that can access funding through the fund and the tangible impact that it has already had on the funding landscape in the North West."

Sir Howard Bernstein, chief executive of Manchester City Council and vice chairman of the North West ERDF Local Monitoring Committee, said: "The North West Fund is delivering on its pledge to support businesses within the region. The funding it provides will make a real difference to the North West economy and it is great news that such a significant number of applications has been approved or are under consideration."

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