However in order to capitalise on the opportunities around high-potential small businesses in the North – particularly the fast-growing tech sector – visibility of capital needs to improve.
These sentiments were expressed at the UK Business Angels Association’s (UKBAA) Northern Investment Summit this week at The Bridgewater Hall in Manchester, which was attended by over 250 leading players in the early-stage investment community including angel investors, venture capital firms and high-growth entrepreneurs.
The Northern Powerhouse funds were identified by keynote speakers including Keith Morgan, CEO of the British Business Bank and Simon Calver, chair of UKBAA and partner at BGF Ventures, as a significant opportunity to bring more capital to the regions’ entrepreneurs, but alongside this public funding there needs to be a long-term supply of private sector investment.
The key will be enabling better connectivity – joining up the public and the private sector on the supply side with entrepreneurial support services and high-potential small businesses on the demand side.
Hugh Campbell, managing partner of GP Bullhound, underlined the importance of building more communities of local investors – particularly people who have been successful entrepreneurs and would like to use their money and experience to back the new generation of growth businesses. Keith Morgan, CEO of the British Business Bank, added: “There is a lack of awareness of what angel investment is available in the North. But the opportunity is there for the taking. There is great potential available for investment in the North.”
UKBAA said that as the national trade association for early-stage investing it is committed to building and growing the UK’s early-stage investment community, helping link angel investors with other key sources of finance and support, for example university innovation centres, co-funds and existing or new syndicates of angels. Jenny Tooth OBE, CEO of UKBAA, said: “We held our first Northern Investment Summit in Manchester because the city has a thriving entrepreneurial culture and excellent investment opportunities. There are as many growth businesses in the North as there are in London and we want to encourage the investment community to take advantage of the growth opportunities that we see right across the country.”
Laurence Skelly MHK, Minister for the Department of Economic Development at the Isle of Man Government, the headline sponsor of the event, commented: “The Summit was a great opportunity to meet like-minded people and play our part in developing a strong and mutually beneficial northern partnership. The Isle of Man is a great source and supporter of innovation and I was delighted to see the development of new relationships with different regions throughout the UK and a strong bond over future opportunities for investment and growth.”