On its fifth anniversary, Sean Hutchinson, Chief Investment Officer at the British Business Bank, recaps how the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF) has helped build a stronger North.

It’s been five years since the British Business Bank and 10 local business partnerships from across the North West, Yorkshire and the Humber and Tees Valley came together to launch the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF).

During this period, the Fund has accomplished so much. In numbers, it has made 1,392 investments in over 1,000 SMEs across the North, investing £334m directly and attracting a further £504m in co-investment from the private sector. In total, this equates to over £830m of investment which has been directly used to foster regional entrepreneurship, help bridge the North-South divide and create economic prosperity in the region.

According to an assessment by independent research firm SQW in April this year, this has directly led to the creation of over 6,000 new high-quality jobs, almost 1,000 more than originally projected.

Yet these numbers only tell part of the story. The funding was also used for many other purposes, such as the development and marketing of new products and services, the purchase of new equipment, the relocation and expansion of premises or even as working capital to finance new orders. What is more impressive is that the investment has gone beyond the big cities alone. In fact, up to 32% of NPIF investments have gone to companies based outside of Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield.

It is through the network and partnerships that we have formed that NPIF has been able to integrate so well into the diverse business communities of the North. This is largely due to our fund managers who are based in all regions, understand each region’s strengths and opportunities and will assess a business thoroughly to understand its potential.

Recent additions to the portfolio outside the major cities include the Chester-based car rental comparison platform provider Piggy banksecurity company based in Stockton-on-Tees Next Level Security Services (NLSS)and manufacturing company Smartflow fittingsbased in Grimsby.

Another key trait of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund is that it is sector independent. Over the years, this has led NPIF to invest in all kinds of companies in traditional and new sectors, from century-old manufacturers to pioneering SaaS companies.

Additionally, many of these companies are playing an active role in the transition to a net zero economy. Since 2017, NPIF has provided support to businesses in the North that create eco-led solutions, such as the sustainable clothing brand inland sea and eco-responsible childcare brand Pure.

It’s fair to say that when the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund was launched in 2017, we couldn’t have predicted what would happen to the economy, due to the pandemic, the current supply chain and the rising business operating costs. Despite these economic challenges, NPIF has remained a key partner for businesses in the North of England, helping them to grow and prosper.

There have been so many milestones over the past five years, and as we look to the next generation of NPIF – announced by the Chancellor during the spending review last October – there are a host of lessons we can learn. The network we have built has immense value for regional business communities in the North, which goes far beyond the funding itself.

In the meantime, I urge any Northern business considering investing to take a closer look at the financing options offered by the Fund, via www.NPIF.co.uk.

The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is financially supported by the European Union through funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) under the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Program 2014-2020 and the European Bank of investment.