A key appointment has been made on the board of the new £160m JEREMIE 2 venture capital fund as it prepares to open for business.
The Journal revealed in April the region’s two local enterprise partnerships had joined forces to create the new investment programme, potentially ploughing a further £160m into the North East’s growing and aspiring firms.
Tees Valley Unlimited and the North East LEP had already been given government money and held initial meetings at North East Finance in Newcastle, to create a programme board who would manage the fund.
Now, the fund has unveiled Estelle Blanks as its full-time deputy project director.
Most recently, Mrs Blanks was deputy director of the Newcastle Science City initiative.
The new programme will provide funding for growing businesses in both local enterprise partnership areas and will expand the work of the original JEREMIE fund, which has been hailed as England’s most successful regional investment fund.
The £125m Finance for Business North East fund – originally named JEREMIE – was launched in 2010, aiming to underpin the growth of business start-ups, technology-based companies and growing smaller businesses through targeted loans and equity investments.
Since then it has become the most successful of its type in the UK, helping hundreds of SMEs and is on track to create more than 5,000 jobs and safeguard a further 2,800 by the end of this year.
Overseen by North East Finance, the programme involves seven funds, each devised to deal with different levels of the market, from start-ups to larger specialist technology firms, such as AIM-listed Applied Graphene Materials.
The fund has invested nearly £110m to date in 650 North East companies and secured more than £120m in investment from the private sector.
Mrs Blanks, who takes up her new role this month, said: “JEREMIE2 will build on the work of the original fund, which has provided much-needed investment for businesses across both Local Enterprise Partnership areas. In addition, it will have created 5,000 jobs and safeguarded a further 2,800 posts by the end of this year.
“Confirmation that JEREMIE2 will continue this vital financial support through loans and equity investments is hugely exciting.
“I am now working with the two LEPs, the project team and project board to plan for a seamless transition between the current and new JEREMIE funds.”
It is envisaged JEREMIE2 will bring together EU structural funds, legacy returns from earlier regional schemes and financing from the European Investment Bank.
By working together, the two LEPS will be able to ensure more funding is available for businesses to increase growth and secure economic prosperity.
Paul Woolston, chair of the North East LEP, said: “Working with our colleagues at Tees Valley LEP means we’ll be able to promote the funding to businesses across the region.
“The first JEREMIE fund has made an enormous difference to the North East economy and we’re delighted the Government and the European Investment Bank are supportive of our vision to use the new fund as part of our plans to bring further growth to the region.”
Sandy Anderson, chair of Tees Valley Unlimited, said: “The JEREMIE 2 programme has real momentum and we are committed to working with our colleagues at the North East LEP to deliver a new investment programme which will benefit growth businesses here in the Tees Valley.”
Representatives from the two enterprise partnerships and Government form part of the high-level Project Board which is working to ensure JEREMIE2 is ready to launch in 2016.