Business Growth Fund boss looks to raise profile among Norfolk and Suffolk firms

Some of Norfolk and Suffolk's leading legal and accountancy firms met with officials from the Business Growth Fund in Norwich today as part of an effort to raise awareness of the scheme among small and medium sized firms in the county.

The joint RBS/Mills and Reeve event was held at the law firm's offices in Whitefriars and was designed to promote awareness of the fund which was launched last year and aims to provide long term equity investment of between �2m and �10m to firms with turnover of up to �100m.

Tim Whittard, the Business Growth Fund's investment director, who attended the meeting, said nationwide the fund had invested about �60m in nine schemes with another three in the pipeline, but they were still looking for a firm in the East of England to sign up.

'We have invested across the UK, but we don't have any in East Anglia as yet and we are keen to get in the patch and start developing opportunities,' he said. 'We are already looking at some in Norfolk but we are keen to do more.'

Bob Annable, corporate director of RBS in Norfolk and Suffolk said: 'While the market for borrowing is subdued we think it is important to ensure the key advisors to our Corporate and Commercial community are aware of the initiatives we and some other banks have put in place to help stimulate and support growth.

Meanwhile in a separate move the government yesterday launched a �200m growth accelerator programme to support ambitious SMEs earmarked for rapid growth.

The aim of the programme, which was launched by business secretary Vince Cable, is to help 26,000 firms achieve their ambitions as well as creating 55,000 high-value jobs.

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A partnership between the private sector and government, which will be led by Grant Thornton, it will see proven business experts working with companies to identify their barriers to growth and ways to overcome them. This will be on issues such as securing finance, commercialising innovation or developing leadership and management capability.

Business and Enterprise Minister Mark Prisk, said the programme was aimed at so-called 'gazelle' companies capable of rapid growth such as the bio-technology firms, but he stressed the scheme was not targeting any particular sector.

'It's applicable to those with the business potential for start-ups who would be looking to achieve a �1m turnover within the first three years,' he said. 'Entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of our economy and we are giving them the support they need to realise their potential. As well as this ambitious and innovative programme, we are already creating a network of thousands of business mentors and will soon be launching a new �10m start-up loans scheme to give young people access to business advice and a small amount of capital.'