Leading voices from Scotland’s business community will meet today at the Financing Scottish Growth Ambitions event in Glasgow, organised by the British Business Bank.
As one of Scotland’s most prominent business leaders and chair of the bank, Smith will discuss how to support growth in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) north of the Border.
Speaking ahead of the event, he told The Scotsman: “We want to tell people a little bit more about the money that is available, but we also want to hear from the financial community and from start-up companies themselves about what difficulties they’re experiencing in getting money to get started and to grow.” One way in which the bank supports growth is through its new Regional Angel Programme, which launches at the end ofthis month.
The initiative will identify areas with growing clusters of angel investors and support their development by providing funding. It will predominantly target regions outside of south-east England, such as Scotland which Smith described as “richly endowed with angel-type investors”.
In June, the bank also launched the £2.5 billion British Patient Capital initiative to stimulate greater flows of long-term patient funding to companies looking to grow.
Smith said long-term funding was key, as he “would like to see Scottish companies go on to become unicorns”.
Smith previously led the commission tasked with delivering recommendations for further Scottish devolution, and has chaired Glasgow-based engineering heavyweight Weir Group and Perth utility company SSE.
Research from the British Business Bank shows that the equity finance market in Scotland is on the rise, with equity investment in Scottish companies reaching £191m in 2017, double the previous year’s total, a figure Smith said was “remarkable”.
Scottish Government figures show that SMEs account for 99 per cent of all private sector enterprises and provide an estimated 1.2 million jobs in Scotland.
David Mundell, the Secretary of State for Scotland, will also speak at the event. He will say: “SMEs are the beating heart of the Scottish economy, offering exceptional skills, products and services.
“The UK government is determined to do all it can to support them. I look forward to hearing how we can continue to work with small businesses for the good of the Scottish economy.”
The British Business Bank works with partners in Scotland to support more than £460 million of finance to 3,600 Scottish smaller businesses. Some 3,300 new firms in Scotland have accessed its start-up loans programme since September 2012.