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04 May 2012

Penny drops into Downing Street

Penny Attridge speaks to David Cameron about the importance of business angel investment

Penny in Downing St

It is rare that business champions have the opportunity to air their views in front of the most powerful man in the land - but that is what Penny Attridge from SPARK Impact, managers of The North West Fund for Biomedical, had the chance to do when she visited Downing Street.

Penny was one of a select group of representatives who talked to Prime Minister David Cameron about the importance of business angel investment.

Mr Cameron and enterprise tsar Lord Young were told that luring finance from business angels, who take stakes in companies and often mentor management, was an essential route for growth, given how reluctant banks remain to lend. Other representatives present to hear the views were BBC Dragons' Den star Peter Jones and Universities Minister David Willetts.

"There was a lot of positivity in the room and a clear enthusiasm for the Government taking steps to assist angels working with early stage companies," said Penny. "Angels are often altruistic and bring a lot of wisdom and nouse to the table. Taking this idea further, there were points raised in the room about the difficulty to source the right types of opportunities and groups to invest with.

"Angel groups tend to be quite general and therefore it can be difficult to find suitable businesses or technology opportunities to invest in.  It was even mooted that perhaps an online portal or angel Facebook group would work well to facilitate communication between angels with common interests."

One of the main areas of discussion for the group was the importance of Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS). Under SEIS business angels can claim 50% income tax relief when they invest up to £100,000 in a business. It is designed to incentivise private investors to boost small businesses and has been broadly welcomed since the Government announced it last year.

Penny is adamant that business angels are key to the biomedical sector and has personal experience of seeing first hand how they can positively impact on businesses. Biomedical firms often prove attractive to investors as they operate in a high-tech, high-value industry, a key reason why The North West Fund has a dedicated Biomedical sector.

"Business angels are crucial co-investors in our early stage deals and this is especially true in the biomedical sector," Penny said. "There are a number of deals in our pipeline involving angel co-investors and it is helpful that they are aware of SEIS. I'm looking forward to seeing how Government initiatives drive successful investment in the future." 

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