Large firms ‘getting too much aid’

A SCOTTISH entrepreneur has criticised the amount of government funding handed to large companies while smaller firms struggle to raise finance.

Sandro Tortolano said his firm, Stirling-based Fisher-Tortolano Systems (FTS), had been offered a £70,000 Smart grant from Scottish Enterprise but couldn’t take it up because he was unable to stump up the £63,000 investment that was needed to trigger the payment.

Tortolano and Allan Fisher, his fellow director, have pumped £250,000 of their own money into the company over the past 12 years.

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FTS has developed a miniature navigation device that Tortolano claims is smaller and more accurate than current models on the market.

He said the company’s technology had a broad range of applications, from helping to monitor the movements of Alzheimer’s patients in their homes through to monitoring the location of drill bits when exploring in the oil and gas industry.

Tortolano said he had also been turned down for funding by business angels because he “hadn’t asked for enough money”.

FTS’s efforts to raise cash are coming to a head as the firm is seeking money to develop prototypes of its device and to pay for patent renewals at the end of month.

Tortolano said: “We need £2,500 to renew a patent. It’s not a lot of money in the big scheme of things, but it’s a lot of money if you don’t have it. Big companies are given £2.5m to develop a £5m product when they don’t need it. I think that, once due diligence has been done, Scottish Enterprise should be able to fund new technologies.”

A spokeswoman for Scottish Enterprise said: “We have worked closely with FTS in recent months providing a wide range of advice and support, including guidance on grants available.

“Many of our financial support products operate on a co-investment basis where we invest alongside the private sector and we have encouraged the company to raise private sector interest so that we can consider support.”