North East Fund signals significant opportunities on Wearside for SMEs

North East Fund signals significant opportunities on Wearside for SMEs

As Sunderland starts to roll out major new regeneration and investment projects transforming the city centre and surrounding areas, the North East Fund is urging Wearside entrepreneurs, local SMEs and those with potential start-up ideas to consider the positive opportunities that may exist by becoming part of the City’s rapidly changing landscape.

Since its launch in 2018, the North East Fund has completed investments in 30 Sunderland-based companies which has helped them raise approximately £12m in funding.

However, with new development projects like Sunderland Riverside (providing 1,000 new homes, one million sq ft of workspace and 8,000-10,000 potential jobs), the emerging central business district at St Mary’s Boulevard (the former Vaux site, now home to The Beam and other future office schemes), and Seaburn with new commercial and hospitality venues, more investments are anticipated to be made by the Fund in the near future.

With many traditional businesses and industries still continuing to thrive in out of town areas, the commercial schemes now in construction will help bridge the gap further by also creating a new, stronger business community for the heart of the city centre, driving Sunderland forward as one of the UK’s most attractive areas to live, work and visit.

James Holloway of the North East Fund, commented, “As one of the UK’s top five locations for start-up companies, the North East Fund is keen to support Wearside-based SMEs, providing funding for growth or recovery, the development of new products and services, or for relocation to a City that is massively reinventing itself.

“Sunderland city centre has, for a long time, been predominantly a retail, leisure and hospitality-based hub, with a large proportion of the City’s more traditional business activity taking place in out-of-town locations such as enterprise centres, industrial estates and business parks.

“Whilst smaller office-based companies have always had a presence in places such as Sunniside, which itself has seen huge, positive changes over recent years, these developments, especially the new urban quarter, will undoubtedly help attract larger firms to the City and the North East region, bringing more inward investment and encouraging increased activity within the local business community.

“Sunderland is a strategic location and these new projects also provide a great opportunity for much smaller, community-based enterprises to become part of a growing economy, from sole traders operating mobile catering companies to family-run businesses developing innovative technologies and products, for example. The North East Fund is already working closely with many Sunderland-based SMEs therefore given the rate of development across the City, now is the time to seriously consider any new business opportunities, plan a start-up enterprise or talk through any potential commercial ideas.”

The North East Fund works closely with Sunderland City Council’s economic development teams to support SMEs’ business growth and enable owners to access the correct funding for growth at the right time.

Wearside companies including Clixifix, one of the UK’s fastest growing property and construction technology firms, Mesma, based in Frederick Street, developing quality assurance software programmes for global organisations, Washington-based Advanced Electric Machines which creates revolutionary engine technology for the EV market, and local produce, food and drink e-commerce site, Best British Produce, have all benefitted from North East Fund investment to assist growth.

James added, “Best British Produce is a local family-run business which is going from strength to strength working with other local suppliers to grow its product range and online audiences. It is one of the Fund’s most recent investments, receiving £25,000 from our Small Loans Fund.

“At the other end of the scale is Advanced Electric Machines which is pioneering world-class technologies and innovations for the global EV market. The company recently received £900,000 from our Innovation Fund to help boost its UK production capacity. Both businesses are successes in their own right, and great examples of Sunderland-based companies doing really well.

“There is a huge mixture of businesses on Wearside that fly the flag for the North East from professional services, contact centres, software development and digital innovation companies to major automotive, engineering and manufacturing organisations, all of which support many thousands of jobs and mature supply chains.

“We’re offering free confidential and no obligation 1-2-1 sessions for any business owners who would like to discuss requirements, whether this be for growth or recovery, R&D or a new start-up idea. The North East Fund can help SMEs find the correct support they need at the correct time, and provide the right access to funding. These are held daily and we urge anyone in a such a position to book a time slot.”

1-2-1 sessions are held weekdays between 9am and 5pm and are available by phone, videoconference, or in person once Government Covid-19 guidelines allow. Sunderland SMEs are asked to contact James Holloway at the North East Fund on 07395 791 653, email: James.holloway@northeastfund.org or go to www.northeastfund.org.