Invest Northern Ireland has developed a broad portfolio of practical programmes and financial support, including venture capital, to help small to medium sized enterprises, particularly in the knowledge and technology-led sectors and those with the capability to trade globally, to grow faster.

Invest NI has written to client companies, business advisors and financial institutions in Northern Ireland to outline how the agency’s Principles for Business Support provide a framework for assistance to clients. It provides the rationale for the provision of its services, that include programmes to develop capability and advice on access to and supply of funding, including venture capital.

The new Invest NI approach to business support includes a commitment to help promote a vibrant and self-sustaining venture capital sector in Northern Ireland. Invest NI aims to achieve this through a partnership with private sector financial institutions and by offering equity funding directly to companies meeting its criteria, where gaps in private sector-venture capital sources exist.

A summary of Invest NI’s approach to venture capital has been prepared for business advisors and financial institutions.

The gaps identified by Invest NI for venture capital provision in Northern Ireland include:
- early seed capital and new business creation;
- technology and knowledge-based start-ups with the potential to trade globally;
- high growth potential businesses; and
- existing companies requiring capital for development purposes.

Leslie Morrison, Invest NI Chief Executive, outlining the agency’s new approach, said: “Our Principles for Business Support offer client companies the opportunity to engage with us in developing customised business solutions.

“Solutions may include financial instruments such as equity, loans and grants to satisfy corporate finance needs not supplied by the private markets; and finance to develop capability in areas such as R&D, e-enablement, trade, business improvement and skills development through participation in the agency’s programmes.

“Invest NI funding is increasingly being directed towards helping companies make genuine and sustainable gains in competitiveness. Financing capacity expansion, for example in plant and machinery, is, where possible, the role of the private sector,” he added.

Venture capital, he said, is not just a source of finance but an instrument of corporate governance that encourages and incentivises promising start ups to aim high and achieve results.

Invest NI also recognises that a better understanding of the role and benefits of venture capital is inhibited by the limited availability of such funding in Northern Ireland, especially for projects below a certain size.

Mr Morrison said: “To assist the growth of the Northern Ireland venture capital sector, Invest NI will provide finance to externally managed funds, complementing private sector investors. We will also offer funding to individual companies that meet our criteria through direct equity participation.

Mr Morrison said Invest NI will also work with the local financial and business community, including existing providers such as Enterprise Equity, Crescent Capital and the Viridian Growth Fund, and the EquityNetwork of InterTradeIreland to promote the benefits of venture capital financing to local companies.

“Our longer-term objective is to create a business environment in which client companies recognise when equity funding is appropriate for their businesses and routinely seek such funding without first recourse to Invest NI,” he added.

The Venture Capital Approach may be viewed by accessing the Invest NI website