Priority 2: SME Competitiveness
The IGJ Programme seeks to support an environment in which high growth companies can flourish and continue to grow, enabling NI to capitalise on the economic benefits that high growth companies can bring, both in terms of GVA and job creation. The IGJ ERDF programme supports a wide range of economic initiatives designed to rebalance the NI economy by encouraging the growth of the private sector. The actions supported will also contribute to an increase in employment in NI’s micro and small enterprises and increase the number of high growth businesses that are capable of both creating new jobs and increasing their productivity levels relatively quickly.
Selective Financial Assistance (SFA) CAPITAL administered by Invest NI
The main aim of SFA support to SMEs is to achieve higher levels of business growth leading to long-term high quality employment within locally based SMEs. This funding stream will specifically support capital investments by SMEs that is targeted towards helping the SME business grow and compete in international markets.
Invest NI makes SFA capital grant support available for projects that will accelerate the growth of new and established small and medium sized enterprises through investment and innovation. This will lead to job creation, improvement of workforce skills, productivity improvements, an increase in the number of locally based businesses and the overall expansion of the private sector in Northern Ireland. Its implementation will directly result in strengthening and accelerating the growth of locally based SMEs.
A suite of Access to Finance support available will contribute to addressing the market failure NI has experienced regarding the supply and demand of finance by providing a range of investment options to support business growth. By helping to address this key constraint to businesss, it is expected that the ERDF Programme will contribute to an increase in the number of High Growth SMEs in NI.
Access to Finance (Financial Instruments) – administered by Invest NI
Invest NI’s Access to Finance funding supports business growth through venture capital and debt financing. Under the EU Investment for Growth and Jobs Programme assistance will be provided with ERDF funding via the following Funds (within Invest NI’s over-arching Access to Finance strategy):
Co-Fund NI: A £28m fund that co-invests in SMEs based in Northern Ireland in co-operation with business angels and other private investors. The fund can provide co-investment in deals typically valued between £150k and £1m at a ratio of up to 45%. The fund is managed by Clarendon Investment Managers
The Development Funds: two separate funds investing in growth SMEs and managed separately by Crescent Capital and Bank of Ireland Kernel Capital. £15m of funding has been committed to each fund, with the potential to invest over £48m in SMEs over the next five years. The investment range for each fund is typically between £450k and £1.2m in any one investment round, and can be up to £3m over a series of investment rounds.
Techstart NI: A collection of funds for start-up and early stage businesses based in Northern Ireland. Provides support to entrepreneurs, seed and early stage SMEs and university spin-outs. Includes a £13m SME equity fund investing in the range of £50k-£250k; two university funds of £1.5m each providing capital to university spin-outs with initial investments in the range of £50k-£250k.
Local Economic Development
Local Economic Development (LED) activity will take place under Priority 2 of the Programme. This Priority aims to enhance the Competitiveness of SMEs and is aligned with (but separate from) the transfer of economic functions that took place as part of the reform of Local Government. The 11 Local Councils will be the beneficiaries of this funding which is administered through Invest NI. An amount of ERDF has been indicatively allocated to each of them to define the projects that they each wish to deliver through procured service delivery contracts. The LED activity has one primary target which is the creation of jobs. This can be achieved either through start-up or business growth activity with particular focus on the micro and small business base (i.e. those with under 50 employees).