How crisis is creating new opportunities
19th November 2020
We talk to Mercia's Will Clark about the outlook for investments, alongside Adrian Ballam, partner in the corporate team at Ward Hadaway.
In the new series ‘Inspiring Growth in Yorkshire’ Greg Wright of the Yorkshire Post, in association with Top 100 law firm Ward Hadaway, talks to those companies leading the way in the region.
The series conceived and commissioned by the Leeds-based law firm celebrates entrepreneurialism, shines a spotlight on business success, and uses those who have been there and done that to act as a guiding light. This week we talk to Mercia’s Will Clark, alongside Adrian Ballam, partner in the corporate team at Ward Hadaway.
Who would have thought a tiny microbe could cause such massive disruption to our lives and our economy? The impact of Covid-19 will be more far-reaching than previous recessions, according to SME finance provider Mercia. History shows that ‘emergent threats’ such as pandemics and wars accelerate new discoveries and the rapid adoption of new behaviours.
Will Clark, Managing Director of Mercia’s Regional Venture Funds, says we are living through a period of transition. “We can already see the way that the pandemic is changing the way we shop, work, interact with other people, the type of entertainment we choose, and our attitudes to health and wellbeing.”
“It will hasten the demise of some businesses, but it will create new opportunities for others – and not just digital start-ups. Many established businesses will successfully pivot and adapt. It’s worth noting that some of today’s most successful companies emerged in the wake of the last recession.”
“If we want a strong regional economy, we need Yorkshire businesses to be at the forefront in the recovery. The good news is that today there is a lot more funding in place to help regional businesses to adapt and grow.”
Mercia offers a range of loans and equity investment to Yorkshire SMEs – including money from the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF), its own funds, and government-backed CBILS loans.
So what type of businesses are experiencing growth right now? Will explains: “Healthcare is the most obvious example – everything from biotech to digital health and medical devices. The pandemic has put a new perspective on the value of healthcare.”
“It has also accelerated the move to online shopping and remote working and is driving uptake of digital technologies across all industries. Traditional sectors like manufacturing, which Yorkshire is renowned for, are reinventing themselves by adopting smart technologies. There has also been a boom in online gaming.”
The burgeoning tech sector is an area of opportunity Ward Hadaway partner Adrian Ballam works closely with Mercia on, acting as a trusted advisor for a number of clients. He said; “Digital transformation has been accelerated during this period and it’s driving wholesale business change in Yorkshire, even amongst more traditional industries.
“We’ve completed a number of deals with Mercia in recent months accessing the NPIF fund, many of them involving digital technologies. It’s interesting that certain historic parts of Yorkshire such as Saltaire are reinventing themselves as real hubs of innovation; perhaps in time, they can become the Silicon Valley of the North – we certainly have the talented individuals and businesses to make it happen.”
Will continues: “All of these companies will need funding and investors, and advisors are collaborating to help them to access it. We work closely with Ward Hadaway to ensure every business has a clear understanding of the process and the funding package. We consider ourselves as a trusted partner to a business and make sure advisors do the same, something Ward Hadaway is very good at.”
5 businesses on a growth curve
Here are five companies who have recently received funding from Mercia to support their expansion:
- Advanced Digital Innovation (ADI), Saltaire
ADI’s app MyPathway allows hospital consultants to communicate with patients remotely and keep track of their condition, and removes the need for appointment letters. Already in use in Leeds, the app has proved a boon during the pandemic.
- Bimsense, Hull
Bimsense’s smart building software allows construction projects to be created digitally before being built to identify any problems and risks. It also provides a digital audit trail in line with the recommendations of the Grenfell Tower report.
- Tribosonics, Sheffield
By embedding sensors within bearings and other moving parts, Tribosonics creates ‘intelligent components’ which can monitor friction and wear and tear. Remote monitoring helps extend plant life, prevent critical failures and reduce energy use.
- Abingdon Health, York
A specialist in rapid diagnostics, Abingdon recently struck a deal to supply the government with Covid-19 antibody tests, which can produce results in 20 minutes and could play a key role in mass testing to assess nationwide immunity levels.
- Red Star 3D, Sheffield
This award-winning animation studios creates its own films which are shown in cinemas and theme parks, the most recent being StarDog and TurboCat which is available on Amazon. It is now taking on contract work from film companies and plans to create 40 new jobs.
This article originally appears in The Yorkshire Post on 19 November 2020.