€16m equity fund revealed for Northern Ireland SMEs

Expanded Co-Fund aimed to have a significant impact on Northern Ireland economy at a critical time for high growth potential SMEs.

Northern Ireland Economy Minister Diane Dodds has announced that Co-investment Fund (Co-Fund) NI is receiving additional funding of over £16m to support Northern Ireland SMEs.

Co-Fund NI is an equity fund managed by Clarendon Fund Managers. It provides growth capital to early stage, high-growth potential SMEs alongside lead private investors.

“Local SMEs are the backbone of our economy and it is important that they can secure funding to grow”

The additional £16m funding is a combined investment between Invest Northern Ireland and the Regional Angels Programme delivered by British Business Investments (BBI), a commercial subsidiary of the British Business Bank.

Growth opportunities for local businesses

“Local SMEs are the backbone of our economy and it is important that they can secure funding to grow,” said Minister Dodds. “Co-Fund NI has been very successful in helping them to do this. Since 2011, it has supported over 70 companies, with over £29m of Invest NI funding and leveraging over £66m of private sector funds.

“The additional £16m funding will inject further investment capital into the Northern Ireland economy. The increase is expected to directly leverage additional funding of more than £20m from private investors over the next three years, opening up new growth opportunities for local businesses.”

Invest NI has provided £6.1m towards the funding uplift. British Business Investments has also committed £10m through its Regional Angels Programme.

“Co-Fund NI is one of five funds in our Access to Finance portfolio,” said Invest NI CEO Kevin Holland. “It specifically provides support to early-stage, high-potential start-up companies. This combined funding will have a significant impact on the Northern Ireland economy at a critical time for high growth potential SMEs.

“We have committed over £6m to increase the fund and provide more businesses with the opportunity to get their innovative ideas out of the starting blocks. By securing further funding from British Business Investments, Co-Fund NI will be able to support more companies to achieve their goals. Investments have already begun, with £2.5m invested across six early-stage and existing Co-Fund NI portfolio companies; Concept Apps, Sustain IQ, Respiratory Analytics, Cirdan Imaging, Axial3D and B-Secur.”

Co-Fund NI is part of Invest NI’s Access to Finance suite of loan and equity funds. The fund can provide co-investment in deals typically valued between £150,000 and £2m

Judith Hartley, CEO, British Business Investments, said: “Our Regional Angels Programme is designed to address imbalances in access to early-stage capital across the UK. This £10m commitment to Co-Fund NI is the programme’s first commitment in Northern Ireland, and will help provide long-term capital to smaller businesses with high growth potential. To date, British Business Investments has committed £65m through the Regional Angels Programme, providing early-stage capital to over 100 high-growth smaller businesses across the UK.”

Invest NI’s support is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth & Jobs Northern Ireland (2014-2020) Programme.

Brian Cummings, Investment Director, Clarendon Fund Managers, added: “As we approach our 20th year of investing in Northern Ireland’s high growth potential business community, we are delighted to build on Invest NI’s Co-Fund NI programme by welcoming BBI as a new investment partner. This allows us to make more funding available to co-invest alongside business angels and other private investors providing companies with a strong mix of funding and expertise to accelerate businesses growth.”

By John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 26 March 2021