“Supporting and funding regional economic growth from start-up businesses to larger scale-up organisations has enabled the North East Fund to invest more than £30m so far in a diverse range of companies across seven local authorities.
“Arguably, all of our investments, whether it be an allocation of £10,000 or £2m, could be classified as scale-up activity as we have provided the opportunity and platform for more than 180 businesses to realise their potential, increase production, develop new products, expand or relocate to larger premises and create new jobs.
“When seeking investment, we usually define a scale-up organisation as a development-stage business. They are, in a lot of cases, producing innovative, market-leading products, experiencing sustained and rising sales, or operating in forward-thinking, high-tech sectors such as clean energy, advanced manufacturing, automotive and fintech or creative industries. The vast majority are looking to grow in terms of market access, revenue and staff, and the North East, despite the current economic uncertainty on a national level, has an abundance of highly ambitious companies and entrepreneurs driving regional growth.
“The North East Fund successfully works alongside many of these businesses as well as cluster and incubator programmes across Newcastle, Gateshead and Durham. This joint collaboration approach has led to more than 34 companies being supported in the County Durham area alone. More investments are to follow over the next four years as part of the £120m programme.
“Therefore, my advice for organisations that may be looking to scale-up activity and apply for investment would be to firstly, do your homework, set realistic targets and make the commitment to grow the businesses. Secondly, look at your organisation’s unique selling points, whether it be delivering a service or manufacturing a product, and whether there are any further opportunities to exploit. In essence, where does your business’s competitive advantage lie? This will enable a clear growth path to be identified whereby funding could assist with scale-up activities.
“Finally, surround yourself with key people internally and advisors externally that have expertise, knowledge and skills across all areas of the business whether it be sales, R&D, IT systems or finance. Our fund managers work closely with owner managers and senior management teams to offer guidance at all stages of business growth, making any investment right for each individual company.”
The North East Fund, supported by the European Regional Development Fund and the European Investment Bank, includes five separate funds delivered through four specialist fund management organisations; Maven Capital Partners, NEL Fund Managers, Northstar Ventures and Mercia Fund Management.