�20m green fund for business

Suffolk businesses can take advantage from today of a new multi-million pound “Dragon’s Den-style” fund aimed at encouraging green initiatives.

The Low Carbon Innovation Fund will see more than �20m available to aid small and medium businesses in the region to either become more environmentally friendly or take a green product or service forward.

It is being run by the Low Carbon Innovation Centre, based at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, and builds on the region’s already established low carbon expertise.

Chris Harrison, chief executive of the centre, said: “There are other funds around the country but this one is unique because of the focus on low carbon development.

“It is not a grant scheme but an equity investment fund which means it follows the Dragon’s Den-style model in that the company sells part of the business in return for the money.”

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The fund is made up of �8m from the European Regional Development Fund, which is administered by the East of England Development Agency (Eeda), with about �12m or more from private co-investment, which will be sought by a regulated London-based fund manager.

Laura Chellis, project manager, said: “The business needs to either produce a low carbon product or service, for example an energy efficient household boiler or be developing new carbon saving technologies.

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“Alternatively it might be looking to reduce its carbon emissions with new infrastructure; it could be the company makes glass bottles, for example, but is keen to become lower carbon by installing a new piece of equipment or renewables.”

The investment from the public money can be between �50,000 to �500,000. The co-investment from the private finance will either be the same or higher.

It is open to small and medium enterprise active within the Eeda region (whether wholly, partially or moving to the area).

Andy Luff, Eeda’s head of European programmes, said: “Every region gets money from the European Regional Development Fund. Eeda came up with the idea for the Low Carbon Innovation Fund and then invited bids from organisations to run it. The Low Carbon Innovation Centre at UEA was successful.

“As far as I am aware, it is the only fund which has specific low carbon requirements on all the investments it makes.”

Each investment of the fund, which is due to run over five years, is likely to be 40 per cent from the public money and 60 per cent from private investment, although this will be decided on a project by project basis.

For example, a company seeking �100,000 of investment could expect this to be �40,000 from the fund and �60,000 from a private source.

“The Low Carbon Innovation Fund is a Finance for Business product, which is part of the government’s package of publicly funded business support. It is designed to help companies start and grow,” added Ms Chellis.

“The fund makes equity investments only - either straight equity deals or convertible loan arrangements.”

Projects which do not meet the specifications could be offered other support from Business Link and the St John’s Innovation Centre in Cambridge.

Stage one of the application process is via the website which asks key questions about the business. Once checks have been made a business case will need to be provided before going on to the next stage.

For more information visit www.lowcarbonfund.co.uk.

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