Importance of access to investment for a stronger North

Ken Cooper, managing director, British Business Bank

By Ken Cooper, managing director at British Business Bank

The last two years have seen businesses faced with unprecedented challenges. With the world coming to a standstill, businesses were asked to adapt to new ways of operating, manage the wellbeing of their staff, and search for new growth opportunities in disrupted markets.

With the right support and funding, Northern businesses can do more than just persevere through difficult times – they can grow and thrive. Although 2022 will no doubt present new challenges, access to funding remains a pivotal tool in spurring growth and is available across the North. Since its launch in 2017, the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF) has played a key role in delivering funding to businesses, completing one deal for every working day in 2021. In January 2022, the fund surpassed £300m of direct investment and had delivered more than £400m of additional private sector co-investment.

This latest milestone reflects the depth of ambition across the region’s SMEs and reflects the maturing business support ecosystem that has been encouraged through a collaboration between Combined Authorities, Local Enterprise Partnerships, Growth Hubs and our own NPIF fund managers. Thanks to their efforts we are seeing business that are diverse in size and sector accessing finance, enabling them to create new product offerings, expand into international markets, purchase critical equipment, and create the jobs of the future.

Leeds-headquartered cyber security specialist Talion are an example of this in action. Securing a seven-figure sum from NPIF – Mercia Equity Finance in December 2021. the business is now able to plan for expansion and target new US customers. With cybercrime becoming more prevalent around the world, it’s a Northern business that is leading the charge when it comes to online security and creating new opportunities in the region.

Elsewhere, Billingham-based utilities wholesaler Everflow Group secured £750,000 of investment from NPIF – FW Capital Debt Finance in September 2021. Since investment the business has seen a 19% uplift in customers, as well as a 20% increase in annualised turnover. In January this year, it was listed in the Financial Times’ list of Europe’s top 1,000 growing businesses and is making big strides on the global stage – a true Tees Valley success story.

These two businesses are clear examples of the transformational impact that investment can play in the growth of businesses. As we continue with our mission to build a stronger North, I believe that 2022 will offer challenges but also opportunities that our businesses will be well placed to take advantage of.

I am looking forward to TheBusinessDesk’s Invest North 2022 conference, sponsored by the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund. It is an opportunity to hear from and speak with those with a passion to deliver a stronger North through investment.

I’m looking forward to discussing how we as an investment community can collaborate to better drive innovation, business growth and new opportunities. I will be speaking on the Finding and funding the North’s fast-growth firms panel and will be joined by Bod Buckby, Head of UK Primary Markets for the London Stock Exchange, and Irene Graham OBE, CEO of Scale Up Institute.