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Back to News Mark Wilcockson

7th December 2021

MEIF – helping smaller businesses fulfill big ambitions in the Midlands

A fund for growth

Bringing innovation, rich entrepreneurial spirit and products and services that drive growth of key sectors, small businesses have long been a key part of the Midlands’ economy.

Yet, access to finance remains a challenge for SMEs in the region, since launching in 2017, the MEIF has invested £142m in SMEs, improving access to finance and unlocking economic growth for local manufacturers, innovative start-ups and a diverse range of businesses. In 2020 alone, the MEIF was responsible for one in four equity deals in the Midlands. Its investments have helped secure a further £150m of additional private sector investment and are on the path to creating more than 3,800 jobs by 2022.

No stone left unturned

According to the Centre for Cities, in 2015 60 per cent of the UK’s SMEs were based in cities, and as such, these saw larger volumes of business investment activity. Mirroring this national trend, major cities such as Birmingham, Coventry, Leicester and Nottingham traditionally took the lion’s share of business investment in the Midlands. To ensure that more businesses and communities can share in the benefits of economic growth driven by business finance, the MEIF ensures it keeps a focus on investing funds into SMEs from all corners of the Midlands.

Just look at Worcestershire, where sustainable wine producer When In Rome secured £375,000 to expand its distribution and grow its team; or Greater Lincolnshire, where hotel booking company Nu-breed hotels received £150,000 to hire five new employees and support expansion into the events industry.

A dual purpose

The Chancellor’s recent announcement of a further £400m for a succesor Fund to MEIF, alongside an additional £50m allocation to the current MEIF programme, taking it to £300m, is a clear vote of confidence from the Government in the region’s business community and the success of the MEIF to date. It will ensure continuity of funding, deliver even more growth capital to businesses, catalyse further private sector investment, and create a longer lasting legacy across the Midlands.

MEIF is already achieving two of the British Business Bank’s core objectives. First of all, the MEIF reduces imbalances in access to finance for small businesses in the Midlands - establishing a diverse, regional finance market. The fund plays a pivotal role in enabling SMEs find finance suited to their needs, thus facilitating business growth and regional scale-up, helping the creation of high-paying, high productivity jobs, or upskilling the existing workforce.

Secondly, the MEIF has a fundamental role to play in driving a sustainable economy in the region. Over the past 18 months the funds have proven to be a valuable asset in the region’s journey to build back better following the disruption caused by the COVID pandemic Now attention is shifting towards helping firms support the UK hitting net zero goals by 2050. This recovery period presents an invaluable opportunity to not only fully embrace the green agenda, but also to champion and support the small businesses that are driving change.

Ultimately, the MEIF has always been about unlocking potential and enabling growth. The very existence of this initiative is testament to the Government’s commitment to supporting the Midlands, as well as the importance that it places on investing in regional economies. MEIF is proud that it is already supporting the Midlands is in a position to level up and build back stronger.

Mark Wilcockson

Senior Investment Manager, MEIF

Regional Funds, British Business Bank

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