Belfast Telegraph

£5m funding boost to promote growth of small firms in NI

By Staff Reporter

A fund for investing in SMEs in Northern Ireland has received an extra £5m to help the subject businesses grow.

The boost for the Co-Fund NI has already led to cash injections for autism testing start-up Autism Biotech, interactive maths firm Komodo Learning and hardware engines developer Titan IC Systems.

Co-Fund NI - said to be the most active source of equity funding in Northern Ireland - was created by Invest NI and is managed by Clarendon Fund Managers.

The latest boost, which is from Invest NI part-financed by the European Regional Development Fund, means its funding has grown to £12.5m.

Co-Fund also announced the appointment of Brian Cummings as an investment director following the growth in its portfolio.

Clarendon Fund Managers finance director Neil Simms said: "It has been an exceptional year for Co-Fund NI, with the top-up in funding coming at the end of a busy 12-month period when we invested £2.75m alongside £3.45m of private investment over 18 investment rounds.

"This means we have been the most active local source of equity funding in the last year, with a great pipeline of investment opportunities coming in to 2015.

"Given this backdrop the increase in funding is very timely and, as we expected, Brian has hit the ground running, having led our participation in two of the last three investments made in to new portfolio companies."

The additional £5.3m can be invested along with private investors such as business angels or their syndicates into eligible SMEs.

Co-Fund NI provides up to 50% of equity investment, alongside 50% from private investors on a deal-by-deal basis.

William McCulla, director of corporate finance at Invest NI, said: "Co-Fund NI is a key component of Invest NI's wider Access to Finance strategy, with the objective of stimulating the availability of risk capital to SMEs across Northern Ireland.

"As Co-Fund NI has successfully demonstrated, business angels and indeed other sources of private investment, are playing an increasingly important role in the development of young, high potential companies that are seeking equity finance to pursue growth in export markets.

"The uplift in funding will allow Co-Fund NI to continue matching private sector investors and stimulate investment activity, and we are pleased that the local delivery team is expanding."

Mr Cummings said Co-Fund NI had invested £7.1m in 26 companies, alongside £10.1m in match funding from private investors. "I have been pleasantly surprised with the strength of the existing portfolio, sourced alongside our co-investment partners, which should translate into economic and employment growth for the region."

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