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Finance and Innovation: More Support Needed for North West Entrepreneurs

In July 2020, North West Business Leadership Team (NWBLT) published a key report looking at the steps needed to deliver more investment-ready businesses and a stronger finance pipeline for every stage of business growth across the North West.

Two years on, an update report launched today concludes that whilst significant progress had been made in the region to increase the levels and types of finance available to support entrepreneurs and scale-up businesses, more and better coordinated support remains a priority.

Outside of the dominant finance sector in London and the South East of England, the pool of investors is always going to be more limited, which means firms located in regions such as the North West will need to work hard to present their business and its potential to financers.

With a lower density of innovative businesses and finance providers in the region compared with London, the networks that can connect the two become more important. The research finds that these ecosystems of sector clusters, support organisations and funders are fragmented across the region.

Pockets of good practice, notably in Manchester, are helping to make more efficient and effective connections between entrepreneurs and investors, but many would-be finance seekers continue to struggle to navigate the available support and have been frustrated by too many wrong doors.

Key findings of the report are that:

  • Greater collaborative effort is needed to ‘shine a spotlight’ on clusters of existing and emerging innovation excellence in the region that could develop in their maturity and become national assets if given tailored support in coordination with local agencies.
  • Consensus is needed on how support for innovative and growth businesses will be provided and funded in the long term.
  • There is more that the established business community can do to support conversations around investor networks and funding opportunities and help make connections where appropriate. This includes exploring further opportunities to support new and growing businesses through the sharing of advice and expertise.
  • The ability to effectively share data remains a barrier and further investigation is needed as to how data could be shared to leverage opportunities for businesses across the North West.
  • There are opportunities to work with organisations representing Ethnic Minority Businesses to explore how trust can be built up in the finance and business support ecosystem.

Jonathan Murphy, CEO, Assura plc and Chair, NWBLT:

“Our original report recognised how crucial entrepreneurs and innovative businesses are for the long-term success of our economy, but also that the support available to them is often inconsistent. A central theme was the need to ensure access to an adequate supply of finance.

“However, finance alone will not drive the success of innovative entrepreneurs in the region. Businesses need to be better equipped with information and management skills to access the finance available and secure the confidence of investors.”

Task Group Chair, Glenn Bemment – Head of ESG (Sustainability and Regionalisation), SME & Mid Corporate Business & Commercial Banking, Lloyds Banking Group:

“Since publication of the original ‘Finance and Innovation – Essential Enablers for Future Business Growth’ report in July 2020 there have been some notable additions to the funding landscape in the region.

“British Business Bank has continued to develop and extend the range and number of delivery partners that it works through, and the launch of British Patient Capital’s Life Science Investment programme will invest £200m and attract a further £400m of private capital; the Manchester Angels Network has been relaunched and the region is now second only to London and the South East for private capital investment in the UK.

“There is more to be done. More can be done to improve the line of sight for investors outside of the region to some of the great early-stage businesses in the region. More can be done to make sure that those businesses are as well-prepared as they can be when they seek investment. And more can be done to support entrepreneurs and business owners from ethnic minority backgrounds, especially black entrepreneurs, who find the journey through the funding and support ecosystem even harder than the majority.”

Copies of the report can be downloaded from the NWBLT website.