Funding opportunities on show at Midlands investment summit

Summit is the UK Business Angels Association’s first major investment event in the Midlands.

Some 300 business leaders and financial experts gathered in Birmingham earlier this week for the Midlands Finance & Investment Summit.

The event – which took place at Millennium Point – attracted delegates from across the UK, and comprised a programme of keynote speeches, panel discussions, pitching sessions and networking. It was run in partnership between the Greater Birmingham & Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership, British Business Bank and UK Business Angels Association.

Saqib Bhatti, Director for Growing Businesses and representing SMEs at GBSLEP, commented: “Working with national organisations like the UKBAA and BBB is vital in providing our local businesses with the best opportunities to grow. The Greater Birmingham and Solihull area is one of the UK’s entrepreneurial hotspots, topping the tables for the number of start-ups created outside of London. It is critical for the regional, and national, economy that we help our best and brightest start-ups in scaling up their operations. With access to finance one of the key requirements for any business to realise its full potential, an event like this provides essential advice and guidance to complement the service on offer at GBSLEP’s Growth Hub.”

The Summit featured a breakfast briefing with the BBB to raise awareness of the new £250 million Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF). The Fund will provide debt and equity finance worth up to £2 million for growing small businesses across the Midlands.

The breakfast was followed by the launch of GBSLEP’s Access to Finance service, which is designed to help SMEs become investment ready, by linking them to funders and regional professional advisor networks via new sector experts. Tim Pile, Chair of GBSLEP, also opened the Summit with a keynote address.

Patrick Magee, Chief Commercial Officer, British Business Bank, said: “The recent British Business Bank’s Small Business Finance Market report revealed significant regional imbalances in the supply of equity finance across the UK. We believe there is a major opportunity to increase the supply of equity finance in the Midlands, and to enhance the growth ecosystem.

“By hosting ten events across the Midlands, including yesterday’s in Birmingham, we are raising awareness around access to finance and more importantly how the Midlands Engine Investment Fund will support the region’s economic potential and collective talent. Building on this momentum, we encourage businesses across the GBSLEP area to connect with our Fund Managers to see how finance could accelerate their growth.”

The rest of the day featured UKBAA’s inaugural Midlands Investment Summit, which aimed to highlight the important opportunities for investment in the region and identify the opportunities to strengthen the connections between the various sources of finance for small businesses across the region. The audience included private investors, venture capitalists, angel investors, banks, crowdfunding and online platforms, debt and loan providers, and corporate investors.

Jenny Tooth OBE, Chief Executive of UK Business Angels Association, said: “Many entrepreneurs across the Midlands have been failing to access the financial support they need to effectively grow and scale their business, and our research has shown that over 70% of Angel investment went to entrepreneurs in London and the South East last year. UKBAA is keen to change this and this Investment Summit is designed to bring together all the key players from across the finance and investment community to see how we can all work together to create a more connected and effective finance ecosystem for businesses here in the Midlands.

“We are delighted to be working with the new MEIF Funds through the British Business Bank and the Access to Finance initiative of GBSLEP to help make this ambition a reality for this vibrant region.”

Topics at the panel discussions ranged from increasing the availability of smart angel capital for Midlands firms, to finance provision for the region’s tech sector. Key speakers included Simon Calver, UKBAA Chairman and Partner at BGF Ventures; Caroline Norbury, Chief Executive at Creative England; Goncalo de Vasconcelos, founder and CEO of SyndicateRoom; Tim Sawyer, Chief Investment Officer at InnovateUK; Bill Morrow, Founder and Chairman of AngelsDen; and Mike Grant, CEO and Chair of Warwick Audio. In addition, five aspiring entrepreneurs from across the region showcased their businesses.