New £136m EU-backed fund to help businesses in Wales grow

A new £136m EU-backed fund to give businesses in Wales access to finance to help drive their productivity and the growth of the Welsh economy has yesterday been launched by First Minister of Wales Carwyn Jones

Managed by Finance Wales, the Wales Business Fund will support small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to accelerate their expansion plans by providing finance through loans and equity investments from £50,000 up to £2 million.

The fund will also provide finance for business start-ups as well as risk capital for the creation and growth of companies undertaking research and innovation, including spin outs, in key growth sectors such as advanced manufacturing, life sciences and health.

It will also help SMEs which may not otherwise be able to access all of the finance they need to take forward viable business opportunities.

Backed with £106m from the Welsh Government and the European Regional Development Fund, the First Minister announced the funding while visiting Cardiff-based Alesi Surgical.

The company is currently commercialising its leading surgical product, Ultravision, which was developed from concept to CE-marked device with support from Finance Wales’ predecessor Wales JEREMIE Fund, also backed with EU funds.

The First Minister said:

“Small and medium sized enterprises are the backbone of our economy and play a vital role in creating jobs, increasing productivity and driving growth across Wales.

“As a pro-business Government, we are committed to supporting both start-up and existing businesses to grow and flourish and I am delighted that we are investing EU and Welsh Government funds to back this goal.”

Building on the success of EU-backed Wales JEREMIE Fund, the new fund will help up to 400 businesses and generate around £75m of private sector investments, as one of the key features of the Fund will be for the Fund Managers to work with banks and other private sector investors to lever in private co-investment on a deal-by-deal basis.

Welcoming the First Minister’s announcement, Gareth Bullock, Chairman of Finance Wales said:

“The Wales Business Fund is an important new EU and Welsh Government-backed fund which will have a significant impact on Wales and the Welsh economy for many years to come. It cements the Welsh Government’s long-term commitment to Welsh SMEs and will build on the achievements of the Wales JEREMIE Fund. The Wales Business Fund will complement the other funds currently available from Finance Wales and provide Welsh SMEs with a comprehensive range of growth funding options.”

As well as EU and Welsh Government funding, legacy funds generated by the Wales JEREMIE Fund will also be invested in the Wales Business Fund.

Alesi Surgical’s Managing Director, Dominic Griffiths added:

“Alesi spun out of Cardiff University in 2009 and with Finance Wales’ investments from the Wales JEREMIE Fund, and our other investor IP Group, we’ve developed and launched our award-winning Ultravsion product. Ultravision is a simple hands-free device that’s revolutionising the way the surgical smoke created during laparoscopic surgery is managed and in 2014 it was awarded the prestigious Cutler Prize for innovation in surgical technology by the Royal College of Surgeons. Alesi is continuing to go from strength to strength and we’ve recently recruited a number of new staff at our Cardiff headquarters to help drive our growth as we globalise this exciting new product.”

Finance Wales will procure a Fund Manager to make investments from the Wales Business Fund, and the EU-backed scheme will operate until 2022.

By lorna@3mil.co.uk 19 Feb 2016