Jeremy Middleton is a North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Board Member and serves as Chair of the North East LEP’s Investment Panel. Here, Jeremy talks about the North East Investment Fund and how it has the potential to give a real boost to the region’s economy.
What is the North East Investment Fund?
Quite simply, the North East Investment Fund is a capital loan fund which is available to support projects in the North East which will encourage local economic growth and create new jobs in the region. The fund is worth £55m in total and is made up of £30m from the Regional Growth Fund and £25m from the Growing Places Fund.
Loans can vary in duration from two to 20 years and it’s an evergreen fund, so once funded projects are completed and their loans are repaid, the money is re-invested into the fund and made available to support new schemes. We made this strategic decision to reject the culture of grants and dependency, instead choosing to award loans which can be recycled.
Can you tell us what the fund has achieved so far?
The North East Investment Fund has already supported some fantastic ventures and is well on the way to exceeding its goal of creating at least 2,300 new jobs across Tyne and Wear, Northumberland and County Durham.
One of the first developments to be allocated money was the Stephenson Quarter development in Newcastle, swiftly followed by a number of projects in Washington, central Sunderland, Chester-le-Street and on the banks of the Tyne in North Tyneside that are all now going ahead thanks to investment from the fund.
The University of Durham’s ambitious plans to develop an Centre for Innovation and Enterprise has also been supported by the Investment Fund and this is another great example of a development which itself with create more opportunities for growth. We’ve also supported the Blyth Workspace development in Northumberland and the West Chirton business park, amongst others.
The flexibility of the fund means it’s been able to support a wide range of projects in both the public and private sector.
Who can apply?
Applications to the North East Investment Fund are evaluated against a number of key criteria. Firstly, strategic economic fit – will the project help to strengthen the local economy or will it benefit transport, connectivity or infrastructure? We also consider deliverability: will projects be completed on time and are the goals achievable?
Applicants are asked to outline how and when they will repay the loan and we also look at how bids will help to create or safeguard jobs, private sector investment or brownfield land development here in the North East.
Ultimately, the fund is there to help support the North East LEP’s goal of creating new and better jobs for the region and achieving the economic potential of the region.
How is the funding allocated?
The fund is managed by the North East LEP, which was behind the successful bids to the third round of the Regional Growth Fund.
The North East LEP’s Investment Panel is a group which includes members of the North East LEP Board and people from the business community, and the group meets regularly to review new applications to the fund.
What’s next for the North East Investment Fund?
We’re inviting more organisations to apply, via the North East LEP, for loans from the North East Investment Fund. The money is available to help kick start projects that lack the initial finance to get off the ground but that have great potential to benefit the North East economy and that are able to realistically repay the initial investment, making it available to support yet more schemes in the future.
I strongly encourage people to take a look at the opportunities which are available through the North East Investment Fund and to consider how it can be used to make real improvements to the North East economy.