Enterprise, Trade & Investment Minister Arlene Foster has announced a new suite of funding and support launched by Invest Northern Ireland as part of its Access to Finance strategy.
The new fund, techstart NI, will provide support for seed and early stage technology businesses and university spin-outs. The £23.6million initiative is made up of a £13million SME equity fund, two university funds of £1.5million each, and a proof of concept grant fund of £7.6million.
Arlene Foster said: “techstart NI will be an important element of the ‘enterprise escalator’ continuum of funding and other forms of support to seed and early stage businesses, with an emphasis on technology based firms with high growth, export driven potential.
“Invest Northern Ireland established techstart NI to help boost private sector growth, ensuring that technology companies with high growth potential are not held back because they cannot access finance or first rate commercial mentoring.”
The new suite of funds will operate for 10 years and will be managed on a wholly commercial basis by Pentech Ventures LLP.
The Minister added: “Pentech Ventures has an impressive track record of working in early stage venture capital and will bring strong operational skills together with networks to people and capital to the Northern Ireland market.
“The fund will be an important part of Invest Northern Ireland’s Access to Finance suite of funding which now totals £160million over six funds. To date, over £48million of investment has been made through these funds, helping over 400 businesses access the finance they need to grow and develop.”
The £13million SME equity fund will provide initial investments of £50,000-£250,000. The two university funds of £1.5million each will provide initial investments of £50,000-£250,000 to university spin-outs. The £7.6million proof of concept grant fund will provide grants of up to £40,000 to help commercialise technology innovations. The Investment Awareness Programme will provide support to entrepreneurs across the key business issues facing them as they endeavour to bring their business ideas to fruition.
Eddie Anderson, founder of Pentech Ventures, said: “We are delighted to have been awarded the contract to manage this fund. Pentech will bring a new energy and approach to the early stage ecosystem in Northern Ireland.”
Hal Wilson, Pentech Partner responsible for the Belfast office, added: “techstart NI is now fully operational and we look forward to working closely with the entrepreneurial community across Northern Ireland.”
techstart NI is part financed by the European Regional Development Fund through the Investment Growth and Jobs Programme.