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North East Fund appoints new CEO to drive SME growth

A new chief executive officer (CEO) has taken the reins of £120m investment programme, the North East Fund, with a drive to ensure that the region’s entrepreneurs and SMEs are able to access the finance required to start up, grow and fulfil their potential.

Former finance director of the North East Fund, Jason Hobbs, has been appointed following the planned departure of his predecessor and acting CEO, Andrew Mitchell, who will continue working in the region on the Finance for Business (JEREMIE) programme, generating legacy monies estimated at £75m+ over the next five years.

Jason has helped to shape the North East’s access to finance infrastructure over the past 15 years through his work with NStar and North East Finance, managing more than £300m of funding projects.

He will now play a pivotal role in generating new and potential growth opportunities through investment, championing funding for North East companies and entrepreneurs, overseeing fund managers’ activities via the five separate investment funds as well as supporting the North East Local Enterprise Partnership’s (LEP) Strategic Economic Plan to deliver more and better jobs.

Jason commented, “Despite the current period of economic uncertainty, there is still a real sense of momentum and resilience amongst SMEs and particular sectors within the region, especially those in fast pace, developing markets like low carbon, creative tech and digital. We want to fully support their ambitions by providing guidance and financial assistance to help them create jobs, new products and sustained business growth.

“The North East has fantastic entrepreneurial spirit and I have taken the reins at a time when the North East Fund is backing some tremendous companies, many of which are set to become world-class innovators and leaders in their field.

“Together with our partner fund management organisations, North East Fund is making considerable progress and I look forward to building on our initial success and unlocking much more of the region’s business potential. We can only look forward with optimism and given that monies negotiated with the European Investment Bank (EIB) and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) for the Fund are safe, I’m confident that we’ll see many more businesses look to us for investment and that can only be a good thing for the region’s economy.”

The North East Fund has already allocated in excess of £15m during the first ten months since its official launch in May 2018, leveraging circa £20m of additional private investment alongside the Fund’s investments.

It is anticipated that over 600 businesses will benefit from the programme over a five year period with the possible creation of 3,500 jobs and a legacy of around £80m for further regional investment.

Helen Golightly, chair of The North East Fund Limited said, “I am delighted with the announcement of Jason’s appointment as his experience and integrity will bring incredible value to the organisation. His knowledge of both the Fund and North East businesses make him the ideal candidate for this role and I look forward to working closely with him.

“I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Andrew Mitchell for his commitment to successfully establishing the Fund.”

Jason has been a director of North East Fund since its inception last year. A key member of the team which delivered the £160m JEREMIE fund, he is a respected figure within the region’s investment market and a fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW).

The North East Fund is managed by North East Fund Limited (NEFL) and delivered through four specialist fund management organisations including Maven Capital Partners, NEL, Northstar Ventures and Mercia Fund Managers.

It comprises of five separate funds that are available to SMEs across Northumberland, Gateshead, Durham, Sunderland, North Tyneside, South Tyneside and Newcastle local authorities.