AN INVESTMENT network on a mission to power growth in promising start-ups is seeking East Midlands entrepreneurs interested in investing time and money by becoming business angels.
Minerva Business Angels, part of the University of Warwick Science Park and one of the most successful business angel networks in the UK, is joining forces with Nottingham Trent University and the University of Nottingham in a partnership aimed at improving access to finance for innovative local companies.
Minerva has chosen to work with Nottingham’s two universities because both have a track record of identifying research and ideas that have commercial potential, and of providing knowledge and advice to firms looking to improve through innovation.
The involvement of both of the city’s universities also reflects their own partnership through the Universities for Nottingham initiative, which has been set up to enable them to work together for the benefit of the city and region.
Official figures show that £1.8 billion is pumped into promising firms every year through the government’s Enterprise Investment Scheme and Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme, which were set-up to encourage more entrepreneurial investment by providing tax incentives.
But only two per cent of this funding has supported East Midlands businesses. Minerva Business Angels wants to redress the balance by attracting successful entrepreneurs to the new Nottingham network of ‘business angels with insight.’
Dr Susan Huxtable, Director of Intellectual Property Management and Commercialisation at the University of Nottingham, says increasing the amount of support available to promising start-ups is critical to the regional economy’s future:
“The University of Nottingham already provides a substantial portfolio of support services for business and entrepreneurship, and we’re delighted to work with Minerva to extend that offer in a way which could help a new generation of promising businesses to innovate, scale-up and grow by introducing them to business angels.
“There is a real appetite for innovation and growth across the East Midlands. With Nottingham Trent University and Minerva, we want to demonstrate to successful entrepreneurs that there are substantial opportunities for successful investment in this region.”
Mike Carr, Executive Dean for Enterprise at Nottingham Trent University, said: “We are delighted to join forces with the University of Nottingham and Minerva to bring this initiative to Nottingham and the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership area.
“This will support our plans to further enhance our enterprise agenda. These include the building of a new Enterprise Innovation Centre and further investment in the support we give to our students, academics and external business in order to commercialise their ideas and intellectual property.”
He added: “As part of the Universities for Nottingham initiative, the formation of the new business angels hub provides a practical demonstration of the way in which the two universities are working together to deliver real economic benefit to the city and the region. We look forwards to welcoming entrepreneurs to the Minerva Network, and to seeing a new generation of businesses grow and thrive with our joint support.”
Currently Guardian University of the Year, Nottingham Trent University has a long track record of supporting enterprise within its student graduate and academic bodies. It also provides a wide range of support to regional businesses, particularly those based in the D2N2 area.
Alex Toft, who heads Minerva, added: “Minerva is leading the way in connecting universities, business angels and entrepreneurs to grow an access to finance ecosystem for the benefit of our local SMEs.
“We are delighted to be partnering with Nottingham’s two innovative and successful universities in order to bring together entrepreneurs seeking support with investors looking for hands-on investment opportunities.”
Business angels play a vital role in helping start-up and early stage businesses to grow, providing not just financial support but the wisdom which comes from the lessons learned during their own entrepreneurial journeys and the skills they have developed in recruiting and managing people and building commercial relationships.
Minerva Nottingham is expected to be officially launched at an event at Nottingham Trent University in October.