Video: LCIF offers investment funding boost to East of England SMEs

John French, chief executive of the Adapt Low Carbon Group. John French, chief executive of the Adapt Low Carbon Group.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013
6:00 AM

Thousands of pounds of venture capital investment is being offered to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) across the East of England thanks to a new scheme from Low Carbon Innovation Fund (LCIF), part of the University of East Anglia’s Adapt Low Carbon Group.

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Case Study: Grimes on the Beach Film Ltd (Recentworks and MJW Productions)

Suffolk-based film production company Grimes on the Beach Film Ltd was keen to secure LCIF investment to produce the very first feature film in the UK to use a low carbon approach to film making.

Grimes on the Beach Film Ltd, set up by film producers Debbie Gray, managing director of Recentworks, and Anne Beresford and Margaret Williams of MJW Productions, sought an investment of £150,000 for a feature film capturing this year’s the live performance of the popular Benjamin Britten opera Peter Grimes on Aldeburgh beach.

Determined to break the mould in the film production industry, the producers first approached LCIF in October 2012 in order to adopt new

low carbon ways of working during the preproduction, production and post-production stages of the filmmaking process.

LCIF was impressed by the team’s talents and the innovative ideas the producers had to address many of the resource efficiency and waste issues faced by the industry.

Premiering at the Cambridge Arts Picturehouse in September this year, the film has not only been a success artistically, but has also broken boundaries in the field of low carbon having become the first film in the UK to use BAFTA’s “Albert” carbon footprinting tool to track its production.

Debbie Gray of Recentworks lists some of the many low carbon techniques employed during the making of the film: “We were able to dramatically cut carbon through methods such as using a small production office with no air conditioning, switching off lights and equipment when not in use, using energy saving bulbs, recycling and reusing products, and printing efficiently and only when absolutely necessary.

“Carbon was also saved by addressing travel, including encouraging cycling, car sharing and public transport, and also home working, teleconferencing and holding meetings in central locations when possible. We also used local crew, cast and suppliers to cut down travel and accommodation needs, and where accommodation was needed, we used smaller, local self-catering houses.”

LCIF’s funding not only helped reduce wastage and improve efficiency, but Debbie says the techniques adopted also cut costs: “The sustainability measures taken showed a cost saving of approximately £2,425, which is a great benefit that we’re keen to convey to other productions considering investment from LCIF.”

LCIF was brought to the producers’ attention through Creative England, a national agency that invests in and supports creative ideas, talent and businesses in film, TV, games and digital media.

“When Creative England told us about the low carbon funding available, I thought it would be a very interesting investment because the film industry do not approach filming in a low carbon way and we were excited as a team to look at how we could produce film using low carbon methods,” Debbie explains.

Peter Grimes on Aldeburgh Beach has been a game-changer within the film industry and LCIF now hopes it will become a useful model to replicate across many other creative companies’ projects.

Richard Harvey, chairman of the LCIF investment committee, said: “LCIF is proud to have sponsored the UK’s first low carbon feature film, which is also LCIF’s first investment in the creative industries. Peter Grimes on Aldeburgh Beach Ltd illustrates perfectly how taking many small steps towards lowering carbon emissions can have a huge overall impact and save money.”

LCIF’s support of the filming of this much loved opera has allowed the film to be shown theatrically and on television, and sold on DVD and by download, bringing this special performance in a unique setting to a much wider audience for years to come.

Investments of between £25,000 and £75,000 are available to eligible SMEs around the region through LCIF’s newly-launched Smaller Investments Scheme.

More than £20million has already been invested in low carbon business projects across the East of England since LCIF launched its main fund in September 2010.

But with that fund only open to companies looking for larger investments of between £75,000 and £750,000, LCIF has responded to demand by launching the new scheme specifically for those seeking smaller amounts.

John French, chief executive of the Adapt Low Carbon Group, said: “We’re committed to helping SMEs in the region and have identified a real need for smaller investments in the region. Our new Small Investments Scheme is designed to suit start-ups and small companies from all sectors, especially those in the creative industries, who may have limited resources.”

Grimes on the Beach at Aldeburgh.Grimes on the Beach at Aldeburgh.

LCIF investment is open to any eligible business in the region that is interested in developing or producing low carbon technologies, products or services, and/or increasing their operational efficiency to reduce carbon emissions.

“We’re urging all SMEs in Suffolk to check their suitability for the funding. We have funds available right now, and if eligible, small businesses across the region could have money in their accounts early in the new year,” Dr French added.

Potential applicants are invited to attend one of a series of free webinars LCIF is running to guide SMEs through the application process and answer any questions they may have. These will be held monthly starting from December 17.

Investment Readiness Workshops are also available, providing additional free support to successful first stage applicants. The workshops will be held across the region and will cover topics including business planning, accounting, and how to build in low carbon management plans.

As a public venture capital fund (funded by the European Regional Development Fund) any LCIF investment is dependent on private co-investment of equal or higher value being made into the business at the same time. Advice on how to secure other sources of investment will also be covered by the workshops.

Over the last three years LCIF has injected more than £6.5m in the East of England’s growing SMEs across a variety of sectors, stimulating an additional £18m from co-investors.

Mark Pendlington, chair of New Anglia LEP’s Green Economy Pathfinder project, said: “LCIF plays a key leadership role in supporting and funding sustainable business growth. This is another first for this innovative Fund, and I urge businesses that are looking for funding for growth to check out the details.”

The new Smaller Investment Scheme will offer a streamlined application process, speedy approval and a quick response to any enquiries from interested companies.

To find out more about the fund, the webinars and the Investment Readiness Workshops, or to submit an application, visit the LCIF website at www.lowcarbonfund.co.uk

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