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£160m North East investment announces senior appointment

Work has now started so that a new £160m JEREMIE2 venture capital fund will be open for business from 2016 to provide major new investment fuelling the growth of North East businesses.

The fund, which is being developed in a unique collaboration for businesses across the region by the North East Local Enterprise Partnership and Tees Valley Unlimited LEP, has unveiled Estelle Blanks as its full time Deputy Project Director. Estelle was most recently 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.

Launched in 2010, JEREMIE1 has invested nearly £110m to date in 650 North East companies and secured more than £120m in investment from the private sector. Funding from the programme was instrumental in the development of Durham University spin-off Applied Graphene Materials, which was floated on the AIM last year and is now valued at £70m.

Estelle, 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 over the past four years. 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 the new JEREMIE funds.”

The current fund provides investment through seven different funds targeting firms across a range of sectors from high growth potential start-ups to larger businesses that need cash for further development.

It is envisaged that JEREMIE2 will bring together EU structural funds, legacy returns from earlier regional schemes and financing from the European Investment Bank. Development costs for the new fund are being part funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and through funding from historical legacies built up as a result of the success of previous investment initiatives in the region.

By working together, the two LEPS will be able to ensure more funding is available for businesses to increase growth and secure economic prosperity in the two LEP areas of the North East.

Paul Woolston, chair of the North East LEP, said: “Working with our colleagues at Tees Valley LEP means we will be able to promote the funding available through JEREMIE2 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 now 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.

Project team leader, Andrew Mitchell, said: “This is a really important project for the two LEP areas. “We need to ensure that entrepreneurs and ambitious businesses from the Tees to the Tweed can continue to get the investment their businesses need, once the current programme comes to a close at the end of 2015.

“This is a hugely complex development and Estelle will bring the project management skills we need to ensure that we are ready to launch at the beginning of 2016.”