100 million boost

Steven BroomheadThe NWDA has announced the approval of the new £100 million Northwest Urban Investment Fund (NWUIF) with funding from the European Regional Development Fund and NWDA.

The NWUIF will provide debt, equity and guarantee investment to support projects that will help unlock, kick-start and regenerate sustainable development in Lancashire and the Northwest.

With the current, challenging economic conditions it is still difficult for urban projects to secure finance from traditional commercial sources, and we know some projects across the region and UK have stalled because of this.

This fund will provide investment to support projects that will help regenerate sustainable development across the region, breathing life back into excellent schemes that may have stalled because of the economic conditions.

The £100 million fund is made up of £50 million European Regional Development Fund and £50 million from the NWDA.

The new fund is a financial instrument, created by the European Commission, to enable the investment of European Regional Development Funding and other match funding.

In Europe it is known as a JESSICA (Joint European Support for Sustainable Investment in City Areas) initiative.

The Northwest is only the second English region to set up an initiative of this type, and is a great example of how the Agency is working on a regional level to extend the number of finance options available to Northwest businesses.

The principle of the fund is to use European Regional Development Funding to invest in projects with the expectation of a return on the investment, rather than following the traditional grant approach that provides funding as a grant with no expectation of repayment.

This return will then be reinvested into new urban development projects. Creating this revolving fund is an excellent opportunity to ensure that money remains available for investment beyond the end of the current Structural Funds Programme in 2015.
This will create an ‘evergreen’ fund to support regeneration and economic development in the region.

By providing funding support in this way, the public sector will be able to reinvest the returns in future projects creating a sustainable revolving investment fund.

We are beginning to see signs that the economic downturn is easing, but we recognise that there are significant challenges in the coming year and beyond.

The Agency will continue to play a vital strategic leadership role, committing the support and investment to ensure that the region emerges stronger than before and the NWUIF will play a crucial part in Lancashire and the Northwest in helping us to do that.

Steven Broomhead, chief executive, Northwest Regional Development Agency.