Inward Investment in UK SMEs & The Power of Regional Funds

About The FSE Group

At The FSE Group, we have a 20 year history of supporting high growth UK SMEs, especially in underrepresented areas of the UK. We have seen how inward investment has helped our portfolio companies to grow and thrive, whether it be from large VC funds from Silicon Valley, or reputable funds from the UK.

Location, Location, Location

Inward investment is the deployment of capital into a country or region from an external source. This definition is usually applied to FDI (Foreign Direct Investment), but is also applicable to funding from capital providers in different regions in the same country.

Beauhurst recently released a report on inward investment trends in every UK region in 2020, which mentions, to little surprise, that most of the UK’s funding providers reside in London. As this is the case, high-growth SMEs based in the UK’s regions need to secure capital from funds outside of their region to scale.

Existing funding providers within an underrepresented region can help an SME scale to the point where it becomes an interesting proposition, with a proven business model and a loyal, early set of customers.  At this point, the business becomes attractive to larger funding providers based outside the region. This is important to fuel economic growth and the ecosystem within a region, since when  larger and more prominent funds invest in a region, it acts as a signal to other stakeholders and funding providers that a region’s ecosystem is maturing and is ready for more investment.

Regional Funds and Scaling Up SMEs

Wildanet, one of our investee businesses in Cornwall which provides superfast wireless broadband to hard-to-reach areas, recently raised £50m in investment from the Gresham House British Strategic Investment Infrastructure Fund, which will enable it to roll out its gigabit-capable broadband network across Cornwall.

This is one of the largest investments ever made in Cornwall, and is positive on two fronts. Firstly, it proves that businesses in Cornwall are capable of scaling up to the point where they can attract inward investment from larger funds. Secondly, one of the key requirements for remote working to be a long-term sustainable option for businesses is the availability of reliable, high-speed broadband. Wildanet’s proposition will allow more Cornish SMEs and entrepreneurs to grow their businesses in Cornwall, further building a virtuous cycle of growth.

In Summary

UK Plc needs SMEs business to scale-up (we are still massively behind other major UK economies when it comes to scaling up SMEs), and we believe that strong early-stage funding via venture debt and equity works best on a Regional basis.  This then supports businesses to reach the level of scale required to secure inward funding. 

At The FSE Group, we are committed to supporting eligible, ambitious, innovative, high growth and scalable SMEs to help fuel their growth ambitions, as an essential part of helping the UK’s economic bounce back.

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Words by Paul Marston, CEO at The FSE Group.