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Tel: 01276 608513

Next Generation Solvent Technology Manufacturer Secures Expansion Funding

A Maidenhead based business specialising in the manufacturing and design of a range of solvent solutions used with energy efficient cleaning machines is set to expand with the help of a Thames Valley Berkshire Expansion Loan. Safe Solvents was established in 2015 with the aim of developing a revolutionary high performance, non-toxic and non-flammable aqueous based detergent.

The products developed by the company are designed to replace the dangerous hydrocarbon-based solvents and outdated technology that is still widely used across the parts-washing market. These environmentally friendly solvent replacement solutions are used across many different sectors, including UK Motorsport, Military, Aviation and Automotive. The machines that have been developed are the most energy efficient on the market and are the only plug and play systems of their kind, requiring no extraction or plumbing.

The funding will be used to finish the development work on a new range of equipment, with a strong focus on direct marketing campaigns to actively promote the new range to their target market. The company also plans to increase their employee numbers with the expansion of their business development team.

Tom Sands, Managing Director at Safe Solvents, “It is our mission to develop usable, effective, and sustainable alternatives to all toxic solvents with safer formulations for the safety of users, the general public, and the environment. We have over 70 years’ experience in the chemical development and cutting edge mechanical engineering sector and our team have developed the most advanced solution currently available on the market. The funding will allow us to scale up the operations side of the business and expand our reach to new clients across the country.”

Ian Baker, Senior Fund Manager at The FSE Group, “Tom and his team have achieved a great deal over the last year in terms of product development and expanding their customer base and we are thrilled to be supporting them. With extensive planning and field testing, Safe Solvents have emerged as market leaders in their field. This is just the kind of company that the expansion loan scheme is here to support and we hope it will be the start of a long and successful journey.”

The Thames Valley Berkshire Funding Escalator is a £8.3m initiative funded by Thames Valley Berkshire LEP to support job creation and economic prosperity in Berkshire. The escalator, which includes four different loan schemes and a growth equity fund, provides eligible companies – from start-up to established – with loans and equity funding between £25,000 and £250,000 for activities that will deliver high-growth and employment opportunities.

For more information about the Thames Valley Berkshire Funding Escalator, please visit or contact Ian Baker tel: 01276 608517.

For more information about Safe Solvents visit:

Reading Business Secures Expansion Loan

SME Web Accountants Ltd (SWA), led by Sean Hackemann, advised the Management Team of Ignite Data Limited (Ignite) on its development capital fundraising with debt funding provided by the Thames Valley Berkshire Expansion Loan Scheme. The funds will be used to accelerate Ignite’s growth strategy and for working capital purposes. SWA provided financial modelling and advisory services to the Management Team.

Based in Reading, Ignite Data designs and delivers smarter research solutions in the real-world using electronic healthcare records (EHR) and outcomes data. Ignite’s technology enhanced solutions allow its pharma and clinical research organisation (CRO) clients to Find Sites for research and clinical trials, Recruit Patients for their research and Manage EHR Data.

Dan Hydes, Managing Director, Ignite, commented:

“Within very tight timeframes Sean worked with us to develop a robust integrated financial model that was central to us raising with funds with FSE Group.”

Cheryl Weeks, Fund Manager at The FSE Group, which manages the TVB Expansion Loan Scheme on behalf of Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), comments:

“To date Ignite Data has built up an impressive list of clients, which include a wide range of leading pharmaceutical and NHS organisations. We were instantly impressed with the technology behind Ignite and are delighted to be supporting Dan and his team in the next stage of their growth. We wish them all the success for the future.”

Sean Hackemann, Director, SWA, commented:

“We are delighted to have assisted the Management Team in raising development capital to accelerate Ignite’s growth and facilitate this cutting-edge business to further carve out a niche in the pharma and research sector. This transaction is a great example of how our growth services help ambitious SMEs obtain development capital in a really challenging funding space.”

£750k Investment Secured for App Helping Blue Chip Companies Engage Employees

A Staines based provider of mobile employee engagement solutions is the latest company to receive investment from the Enterprise M3 Growth Fund. The £175,000 investment is part of a £750k round, which also includes £455,000 from business angels, facilitated by the FSE Investor Network, and existing investors. A second close will shortly see an additional institutional investor provide a further £0.25m, bringing the total investment to £1m. FSE has achieved leverage of over 5 times its investment, which will help accelerate the company’s growth ambitions.

StaffConnect is carving a niche in the underdeveloped space of employee engagement, specifically targeting sectors and environments where a significant proportion of staff are non-desk based and do not feel an attachment to the company. Its platform provides employees with an app for their smartphones, meaning they can connect with their colleagues and employers without having to give personal phone numbers and email addresses, whilst providing employers with a sophisticated interface which can be used to manage and measure a wide range of functions to support employee engagement.

Founder and CEO, Bulent Osman, outlines the problem: “disengaged staff can be a huge barrier to success with research suggesting that, in the US alone, the cost to business is around $500 billion; an effective internal communications strategy that instils company values and cultivates a sense of loyalty and belonging, can deliver almost 50% higher returns across a business. Our solution gives an employer the opportunity to add this value across their entire organisation, especially where workers are remote or non-desk based and most likely to continue feeling disconnected.”

With the rise of social media, this disengagement is even more damaging to businesses than it has been in the past, as disgruntled employees frequently take to these – sometimes public – platforms to express negative feelings and experiences. StaffConnect addresses this, along with other elements to promote and improve employee engagement, through its range of pre-built and bespoke modules that include among others, news, messaging, events, social and surveys.

Already in use by a number of blue-chip clients including Vodafone, Yeo Valley and YMCA, this is a well-developed product that is ready for further roll-out. This latest round of investment will be used to grow the sales team and customer support function, aiding expansion across additional territories.

Ralph Singleton, Fund Manager at The FSE Group, which manages the Enterprise M3 Growth Fund on behalf of Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), adds: “StaffConnect has created a leading-edge solution with a technical capability beyond that of the competition and for such a young company to have already secured global, high-profile clients, with many more in the pipeline, is both unusual and impressive. We look forward to working with the team to capitalise on the growing traction they are experiencing and fulfil their potential in this rapidly expanding market.”

Geoff French, CBE, Chair of Enterprise M3 LEP comments: “We are really pleased to see that Enterprise M3 Growth Fund is helping another ambitious company to expand and maximise productivity. The £900,000 we have invested into local businesses so far from the £5.5m pot, has leveraged a further £4.1m in additional funding from private and institutional investors, thus generating a total of £5m for businesses to grow and create more jobs in our area.”

The Enterprise M3 Growth Fund is part of the Enterprise M3 Funding Escalator, a £5.5million initiative funded by Enterprise M3 Local Enterprise Partnership. The escalator, which also includes an expansion loan scheme, provides eligible companies with loans and equity funding between £50,000 and £200,000 for activities that will deliver high-growth and employment opportunities.

For more information about the Enterprise M3 Growth Fund please visit or contact Ralph Singleton at tel: 01276 607307.

About StaffConnect:   

StaffConnect delivers the world’s leading enterprise, mobile employee engagement platform. StaffConnect’s solution transforms the employee experience by enabling large organisations to connect, communicate and engage their entire workforce, especially remote, non-desk employees. The customer-branded mobile app gives employees ‘a voice’, with access to company and user-generated content to increase loyalty and productivity. The cloud-hosted platform empowers employers to target that content, with analytics, to deepen engagement with everyone. From offices in London and San Francisco, StaffConnect’s domain experts support large customers from all around the world that are driving workforce performance to enhance the customer experience and build shareholder value. For further information, please visit:

Flavours and Fragrance Creators Expand into New Premises with Latest Regional Growth Loan

A Suffolk company delivering flavours, fragrances and ingredients to the food, drink and cosmetics industries has expanded into new premises with the support of a loan from the East of England Regional Growth Loan Scheme (RGLS), which is managed by Finance East.

Omega Ingredients was established by husband and wife team, Steve and Elizabeth Pearce, in 2001. As skilled biochemists with over 30 years industry experience, the pair have grown a unique and flourishing business, providing both ‘off the shelf’ and bespoke offerings to meet the needs of their clients. Having developed a strong and loyal customer base within the UK, they are now experiencing growth in the US and across Europe.

With overseas potential dramatically increasing, the business must be fully equipped to service them, as Elizabeth explains: “to become an approved supplier in this industry can take a considerable amount of time and investment, however once approved the business needs to be ready to meet the new customer requirements without hesitation. The rapidly expanding pipeline business has enabled us to identify the growth plan and future manufacturing requirements. With this in mind we invested (with the help of Finance East) in a new building facilitating expansion in product development, clean QA and factory facilities.

This £50,000 loan marks the fourth RGLS loan totalling £350,000 for Omega Ingredients, having taken the first in 2009 to implement a capital expenditure programme which has led to sustained growth for the business.

Stuart Ager, Senior Fund Manager at Finance East, remarks: “When we first started working with Omega over eight years ago, they were a team of six turning over around £750,000. The company now employs 20 people, is turning over in excess of £2million and is set for continued growth through 2017 and beyond. This innovative business marks a real success story for the region and we are delighted to have supported this latest expansion.”

The RGLS is managed by Finance East, part of The FSE Group, on behalf of Local Enterprise Partnerships in the East of England, and British Business Bank. The RGLS is available to established, incorporated businesses based within the East of England that have a minimum annual turnover of £100k, show strong growth potential and have a medium to long-term funding requirement to deliver that growth.

For more information about the Regional Growth Loan Scheme contact Stuart Ager on 07825 699407 or email

A case against fast finance: why the relationship with your finance provider matters

When it comes to finding funding, small businesses should consider how well their finance partner knows their unique needs, rather than going for the quickest route

The funding landscape affecting small and medium-sized businesses has undergone some interesting shifts recently. While banks have become more conservative with their lending, there’s also been an upsurge in alternative finance options such as peer-to-peer lending and crowdfunding platforms. But are small businesses taking full advantage of all the options available to them?

Armed with a proposition, the majority of small businesses opt to go to the banks first in the hope of securing funding. According to the British Business Bank’s 2015/2016 report, over half of UK smaller businesses immediately go to their main bank when they first identify a financing need rather than shopping around for finance. Unfortunately, success is by no means guaranteed – especially since banks have adjusted their risk appetite over the last few years. But with so many other funding options available now, rejection from a bank doesn’t need to spell the end of the road anymore. That being said, many businesses seem to be hesitant to spend more time assessing the financial options on the table.

As well as a reluctance by banks to fund small businesses, there’s also been a sharp change in the day-to-day relationship between banks and their clients. With continuing pressure to reduce costs – which often means staff reductions – many banks communicate with small businesses via their business support teams over the phone or through a live chat online. The rise in digital communications has changed the relationship between businesses and banks, and the intimate relationship that used to exist is now sadly rare.

Turned away by their bank, many businesses feel they have no choice but to apply for online loans. And while this approach may work out for some, there are other routes. The problem is that these options are often overshadowed by flashy ads telling people to “apply in minutes” that promise quick decisions. But what chance does the business owner or management team have to really set out their plans or demonstrate their understanding of the opportunities – or the threats?

The decision on both sides is simply driven by numbers and data. However, the numbers can look worse if a business is starting up or on the cusp of growth. That’s why establishing a relationship between a business and its finance partner is important. Getting the full story requires a conversation and open communication. It’s vitally important that a business trusts its source of finance, and the only way that level of trust can be built up is via a strong relationship. Generic or one-size-fits-all solutions just won’t work here because no two businesses are the same. So as small businesses shop around for funding, they should look beyond how much money the other party is willing to put on the table.

The good news is that there are many new funders looking to step forward to fill the gap left by banks. It’s now up to small businesses to cast the net wider and also to weigh up what a funding partner is offering against what their business really needs. Many businesses opt for the quickest and simplest route, and this is where they can become frustrated.

The cheapest deal may come through a simple application process online, but without taking some time to look at other options you might miss out on the best deal. Some funding sources, such as bank loans or crowdfunding platforms, are very visible. But there are others worth exploring that perhaps receive less attention. Government lending schemes in collaboration with local enterprise partnerships or wider schemes funded by the British Business Bank are often tailored to the business’ stage of development and can adapt as the business grows and prospers. Crucially, the relationship aspect plays a key role throughout the process. Both parties identify future opportunities or potential risks and work through challenging times together. Support builds trust, which in turn strengthens the relationship. So while data and technology may have encroached on some relationships, they’re still going strong if you know where to look.

Staircase Manufacturer Steps up Growth Plans with £50,000 Regional Growth Loan

The owner of a Norfolk based manufacturing company has secured a £50,000 Regional Growth Loan to support its expansion.

Demax has a long history of producing staircases that dates back to the 1970s. It now provides a full service – design, manufacture, sale and installation – for high quality, bespoke staircases. Offering its products to both the residential and commercial sectors, Demax’s clients range from Nandos, Mercedes Benz and Barratt Homes, to Arab Princes.

Ros Knights had been employed at Demax since 2011, working her way up to General Manager. Last year she made the company her own via a management buy-out and this brought an opportunity to revitalise some elements of the business; improving the financial position and laying foundations for further growth were key, as Ros explains:

“Taking on the business, I was aware there were some weaker elements and some areas of real strength – particularly around our reputation for having a highly skilled workforce capable of creating beautiful products of exceptional quality. I was, and still am, excited by the challenge of fulfilling the potential of the business and we’re delighted to already see a 25% increase in enquiries over last year.”

To further enable the planned expansion, Demax will use the £50,000 from the East of England Regional Growth Loan Scheme (RGLS), which is managed by Finance East, to help fund the move to new, larger premises, along with some refurbishment and investment in machinery. This will ensure workflows are improved, allowing for significant additional capacity throughout the factory, in order to meet increasing demand. The company will also be looking to recruit further staff in sales, fabrication and fitting this year.

Stuart Ager, Senior Fund Manager at Finance East, comments: “With its strong reputation and experienced management team, backed up by a technically skilled workforce, Demax is well-positioned to take advantage of the opportunities it faces in this niche sector. Its customer base is both loyal and growing, and the flexible manufacturing capacity offered within its new premises will support this. We look forward to supporting Ros and the team throughout this expansion.”

The RGLS is managed by Finance East, part of The FSE Group, on behalf of Local Enterprise Partnerships in the East of England, and British Business Bank. The RGLS is available to established, incorporated businesses based within the East of England that have a minimum annual turnover of £100k, show strong growth potential and have a medium to long-term funding requirement to deliver that growth.

For more information about the Regional Growth Loan Scheme contact Stuart Ager on 07825 699407 or email

New Funding And Major Recruitment Investment Propels iCyber-Security Group Growth

Newbury, Berkshire, UK – June 2017

Key funding and a series of senior appointments are announced today, as part of a sustained growth strategy for iCyber-Security Group (iCS).

A significant loan facility has been secured from Thames Valley Berkshire Expansion Loan Scheme, managed by The FSE Group which provides tailored funding solutions and support for ambitious and innovative small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

iCS has strengthened its executive team with the appointment of Norman Frankel as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Richard Ainsworth-Morris as Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and Company Secretary.

Marco Essomba, Executive Chairman, Chief Technical Officer (CTO) and Founder of iCS, says: “This is a significant time in the growth of iCS with a host of senior additions to the management team and new funding available. Cyber security could not be any more high profile, both at a national and local level in the UK. Boardrooms across the globe are wrestling with how best to protect themselves from cyber attack and to mitigate their risk.

“iCS is enjoying sustained growth and is quickly establishing a reputation for being one of the leading cyber security consultancies in the country. These new appointments will ensure we create new strategic partnerships, provide enhanced customer service and fuel our growth into Europe and beyond.”

Additionally, Mark Sipe, Commercial Director and Pete Bate, Senior Business Development Executive, have been added to the sales team, tasked with business development in sectors including: automotive, pharmaceutical, financial services, petrochemical, local government and retail.

Norman Frankel is a vastly experienced CEO following a career with NatWest and Logica before founding Mi-Pay plc, an international payments and mobile commerce company.

Richard Ainsworth-Morris previously worked in a senior finance role at HSBC Private Clients Switzerland and prior to that has also held CFO roles at NASA International Inc, a hi-tech telecom and gaming business which floated on LSE at a value of US$4 billion. Richard also joins us with considerable fundraising experience, having raised US$5 million for Saturn IQ plc along with a Nasdaq listing.

Mark Sipe brings 15 years of experience in the tech industry with a major focus in the network and application security space. Previously Mark was EMEA Channel Manager for jetNEXUS and head of EMEA Sales Operations for Riverbed Technology.

Pete Bate brings 20 years sales experience in the tech industry having worked with security vendors, resellers and system integration businesses such as Fujitsu.

Note to Editors:

iCyber-Security Group shields and supports a company’s entire IT eco-system from cyber attack and creates safer, better and faster digital worlds.

The TVB Expansion Loan Scheme is part of the TVB Funding Escalator, a £8.3m initiative funded by Thames Valley Berkshire Local Enterprise Partnership. The escalator, which also includes a Commercialisation Loan Scheme, an Expansion Loan Scheme, a Trade Finance Loan Scheme and a Growth Equity Fund, provides eligible companies with loans and equity funding between £25,000 and £250,000 for activities that will deliver high-growth and employment opportunities.

FSE C.I.C. is an independent Community Interest Company (C.I.C.) whereby surpluses are reinvested in the business, rather than being driven by the need to maximise profit for shareholders and owners. FSE C.I.C. has a number of subsidiary companies to deliver its funds and services, which are collectively referred to as The FSE Group.

UltraSoC attracts fresh investment as technology industry recognizes huge potential for embedded intelligence

Investors commit support for UK’s hard-tech expertise:

UltraSoC today announces the completion of a £5m ($6.4m) funding round to drive continued deployment of its technology and realize its vision of embedding intelligent analytics capabilities into every chip. Atlante Tech leads a strong line up of new investors including Enso Ventures, Oxford Capital, and successful CEO and serial entrepreneur Guillaume d’Eyssautier, who join existing investors Octopus Ventures and South East Seed Fund (FSE Group).

“Hard tech is back in favor with the UK and global investment community, with recent funding for Ultrahaptics, Graphcore and SiFive (a fellow RISC-V proponent), plus successful exits at Movidius and Mobileye,” said Rupert Baines, UltraSoC CEO. “Our investors are excited by the potential of UltraSoC’s technology and are committed to supporting our aim of putting intelligent analytics into every chip.”

As part of the funding, Miles Kirby of Oxford, Kirill Mudryy of Enso and Alvise Bonivento of Atlante will join the UltraSoC board, alongside existing investor representative Luke Hakes (Octopus), board Chair Chris Gilbert and non-executive director Chris Wade.

UltraSoC’s semiconductor intellectual property (SIP) enables designers to easily and cost-effectively create complex SoCs (systems on chip) with built-in intelligence that continuously monitors and responds to real-world behavior. This allows SoCs to optimize power consumption and performance and deal with security threats or safety breaches.

Successful development of the company’s debug tools and increased awareness of the technology’s potential benefits has meant a series of significant commercial engagements, with more in the pipeline. Amongst others, HiSilicon (Huawei), Imagination Technologies, Movidius (now Intel), and Microsemi all use UltraSoC technology in their designs, delivering proven hardware-embedded benefits to their customers. To ensure these benefits are accessible to customers in all sectors across the globe, UltraSoC partners with leading names in the semiconductor industry including ARM, Baysand, Cadence/Tensilica, CEVA, Codasip, Lauterbach, MIPS and Teledyne LeCroy.

The significant line-up of new and existing investors in this funding round reflects the company’s growing commercial traction and technological progress. Likewise, the company’s potential is being realized as the need for safety, security and performance-tuning becomes critical. Embedded analytics allows the chip to monitor and optimize its own behavior at a hardware level; and provides insights that enable engineers to make improvements and fix problems. The same technology can detect evolving real-world threats and problems – for instance those caused by malicious attacks. These features benefit any electronic system, but are particularly attractive in the automotive and high-performance computing (HPC) sectors.

The investment in UltraSoC also reflects changes taking place in market areas where embedded analytics offers chip makers and their customers a distinct competitive advantage. Dr. Alvise Bonivento of lead investor Atlante Tech commented on this point: “UltraSoC has a great team, technology and substantial commercial traction. The time is right for UltraSoC’s embedded intelligence to make a significant difference to mass market and mission critical applications.”

UltraSoC chairman, Chris Gilbert, commented: “We are delighted to receive the backing of prominent industry figures and distinguished investors like Atlante, Enso and Oxford, as we take UltraSoC to the next level of success. It’s great to welcome these new investors on board, and we are delighted to retain the support of our existing backers Octopus Ventures and the FSE Group’s South East Seed Fund.”

Kirill Mudryy, Partner at Enso Ventures, added: “We at Enso Ventures are always looking to support companies that have innovative and truly disruptive technology. That is why we are delighted to add UltraSoC to our portfolio.”

UltraSoC was named one of the 100 most exciting companies in the UK in the 2016 Mishcon de Reya CityAM “Leap 100” list, and nominated by Gartner as one of its 2016 “Cool Vendors”. It was recognized as “Best New Company” in the 2015 ELEKTRA Awards.

UltraSoC’s flagship product line is a suite of semiconductor IP that allows chip designers to integrate an intelligent analytics infrastructure into the core hardware of their devices. By monitoring and analyzing the real-world behavior of entire systems via UltraSoC’s intelligent analytics embedded in the silicon, engineers can take action to reduce system power consumption, increase performance, protect against malicious intrusions, and ensure product safety. These capabilities address applications in a broad range of market sectors, from automotive and IoT products, to at-scale computing and communications infrastructure.

Silverpeak, the technology investment bank, acted as exclusive financial advisor to UltraSoC in the transaction.

About Atlante Tech:

Atlante Tech is a new fund promoted by IMI Fondi Chiusi Sgr SpA dedicated to investing in high tech start-ups with high growth potential especially in electronics, embedded systems, big data, medical technologies, and cleantech. Atlante Tech relies on the experience of the other funds of the Atlante family (Atlante Ventures, Atlante Seed, Atlante Ventures Mezzogiorno) that are among the most active Italian VC investors both in terms of number of investments and in terms of exits and IPOs. Atlante Tech has recently reached its first closing at 30M € (subscribed by Intesa Sanpaolo group) and is currently raising other capital on the market with the goal of reaching 120M€.

About Enso Ventures:

Enso Ventures is a venture capital firm that specializes in making selective investments in groundbreaking, high-technology and bio-tech companies. Enso Ventures provides the required capital along with leadership and industry expertise with a clear focus on technology acceleration and commercial development to promote faster growth. The focus is on disruptive technology platforms in high growth market segments, products addressing unmet global market needs with the potential to become market leaders. Enso Ventures has offices in London and New York.

About Octopus Ventures:

Octopus Ventures is a London and New York based venture capital firm, focused on identifying unusually talented entrepreneurs. In recent years we have been fortunate to back the founding teams of over 60 companies, including Conversocial,, LoveFiLM, Property Partner, Secret Escapes, Sofar Sounds, Swiftkey, Swoon Editions, Uniplaces,, Zoopla Property Group and Zynstra.

We can invest from £250,000 to £25 million in a first round of funding and will look to follow in subsequent rounds. We are proud to be known as one of the most entrepreneur friendly investors in Europe and a significant part of our portfolio consists of referrals from teams we have already invested in or serial entrepreneurs who we have previously backed.

Octopus Ventures is part of the Octopus group. Octopus is a fast-growing UK fund management business with leading positions in several specialist sectors including property finance, healthcare, energy and smaller company investing. Founded in 2000, Octopus manages more than £6 billion of funds on behalf of 50,000 investors.

About Oxford Capital:

Oxford Capital has been making venture capital investments since 1999. Our London-based ventures team has more than 70 years of combined experience, gained at leading investors including Qualcomm, HG Capital, DN Capital, Draper Esprit and Arma Partners.

We invest in early-stage businesses and we want to back entrepreneurs who are trying to solve big problems in innovative ways. We aim to invest in sectors where the UK has the potential to lead the world. Current areas of interest include Software-as-a-Service, marketplaces, mobility, gaming, fintech, digital health, machine learning and artificial intelligence

About The South East Seed Fund:

The South East Seed Fund is managed by The FSE Group, a regional funding organisation, backed by BIS and privately governed. With access to a breadth of public and private resources, FSE specialises in the identification, funding and development of ambitious businesses with high growth potential.

By providing a unique funding service to these companies across the South East, FSE helps them grow through direct investment. The South East Seed Fund has directly invested £5m in SE companies and has helped them raise a further £100m

Brighton Based EdTech Company Closes New Funding Round

A company determined on teaching children about emerging technologies through a fun and supportive club environment has successfully completed its latest funding round. The investment comes from Creative England, the Coast to Capital Growth Equity Fund, managed by the FSE Group and Emerge Education.

MakerClub came to life in 2014 and was founded by Simon Riley, named in the 2015 top 100 most influential EdTech leaders. The company offers weekly technology workshops and online learning to inspire and teach children how to use 3D printers and programme robotics. Starting them off with ice lolly sticks and taking them all the way through to professional 3D printed prototypes.

Simon Riley, Managing Director at MakerClub comments, “Here at MakerClub we feel that not enough emphasis is being put into teaching new and exciting technologies to young children. With the sudden rise of 3D printing this is a great opportunity to teach children about technology that could, in the not too distant future, be a regular part of everyday life. This investment will enable us to open more centres, encourage engagement and reach out to even more children.”

Mehjabeen Patrick, CFO, Creative England, “MakerClub is a great example of an innovative company with fantastic potential, they have a mission with social purpose and it has been inspiring to see how they have grown and developed their business. Simon and the team are passionate about what they do, and have the skills and expertise to take MakerClub to the next level.”

Avent Bezuidenhoudt, Senior Fund Manager at The FSE Group, “The MakerClub brand is clearly recognisable and scalable with admirable objectives. The technological expertise of the team paired with their educational knowledge gives the company huge potential. We are delighted to add the company to our portfolio and look forward to watching them grow and prosper.”

Jan Matern, CEO of Emerge education, said “MakerClub is able to deliver high-quality instruction in digital skills consistently and at scale, which speaks of the team’s engineering, customer service and operations prowess. We are proud to be working with them to build a much needed institution for delivering these types of skills to the next generation.”

About MakerClub:

MakerClub is an award-winning weekly invention and technology community for ages 8 to 13, we are based in Brighton but have centres all around the UK. Our sessions are project-based, hands-on and created by real technologists who believe that every child has the ability to become an inventor. For more information visit:

About Creative England:

Creative England invests in and supports creative ideas, talent and businesses in film, TV, games and digital media. We aim to grow the brightest, the best, and those with the most promise so that individuals and businesses can achieve their full creative and commercial potential. We help identify future opportunities to grow the economy and generate jobs.

About The FSE Group:

The Coast to Capital Growth Equity Fund is part of the Coast to Capital Funding Escalator, a £5million initiative funded by Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership. The escalator, which also includes an expansion loan scheme, provides eligible companies with loans and equity funding between £50,000 and £500,000 for activities that will deliver high-growth and employment opportunities.

For more information about the Coast to Capital Growth Equity Fund please visit or contact Avent Bezuidenhoudt at tel: 01276 608526.

About Emerge Education:

Emerge Education is Europe’s leading edtech accelerator. It provides exceptional edtech entrepreneurs with access to the capital, networks and expertise they need to prove their impact and scale globally so that billions of people can lead more fulfilling lives. Emerge Education provides up to £100k in funding for edtech startups and is based in Hoxton, London.

For more information, please visit or contact Jan Matern, CEO at

Regional Growth Loan Helps Essex Stonemason Firm Boost Capacity to Meet Growing Demand

With a family history of stonemasonry dating back to the 1600s, Wood for Stone owner and 6th generation master stonemason, Andrew Wood, is now bringing production at his Manningtree business into the 21st century with the help of an East of England Regional Growth Loan.

With a diverse range of natural stone products that includes fireplaces, staircases, kitchen worktops, and headstones to name a few, the company holds experience and expertise in all aspects of stone which sets it apart from the more limited competition. This wide service offering together with a good mix of corporate and private clients saw demand rise beyond the means of the business during 2016, as Andrew explains:

“Our team of four skilled craftsmen developed an exceptional reputation for producing work of the highest quality across a broad range of products and services. This brought a welcome increase in enquiries both from returning customers and new contacts as word of mouth referrals spread. However, last year we reached a point where we were having to turn work away – a situation that no business wants to be in – so we decided to invest in changes that would boost capacity to meet that demand plus allow room for further growth.”

Finance East provided Wood for Stone with a £160,000 loan from the Regional Growth Loan Scheme (RGLS) to purchase a state of the art cutting machine and assist with costs to move the business to a larger unit. The machine has sped up some of the operations that were traditionally done by hand whilst also freeing up skilled employees – including Andrew’s daughter, Laura, the 7th generation stonemason in the family – to produce more of the detailed stonework. This should enable production to double this year, which will be supported with the addition of two further stone cutters.

Stuart Ager, Senior Fund Manager at Finance East which manages the RGLS, says: “By taking steps to increase capacity, Andrew can now look to expand the current market base further, particularly focusing on the commercial sector where there is a significant opportunity to work even more closely with quality builders seeking high end finishes. Wood for Stone’s strong working relationships with suppliers together with its extensive skillset and sector knowledge means that it is well positioned to deliver against the varied needs of its growing list of clients.”

The RGLS is managed by Finance East, part of The FSE Group, on behalf of Local Enterprise Partnerships in the East of England and British Business Bank. The RGLS is available to established, incorporated businesses based within the East of England that have a minimum annual turnover of £100k, show strong growth potential and have a medium to long-term funding requirement to deliver that growth.

For more information about the Regional Growth Loan Scheme contact Stuart Ager on 07825 699407 or email