Paul Kalinauckas joined the Marches LEP Board in May 2018 and acts as the Access to Finance Champion. The Terms of Reference for the Access to Finance Group can be found here.

We know that access to finance is an issue for our businesses, and that it can be a barrier to growth.

The sheer number of  funding, grant and loan schemes on offer can also be confusing, and as a result, there is now a central point of access to information on the vast opportunities on offer.

The Marches Growth Hub, at, includes a searchable database of funding and finance schemes.

Companies can also contact the hub helpline on FREEPHONE 0800 998 1098 to find out what schemes they are eligible for, including local, regional and national funding programmes.

The Access to Finance Strategy adopted by the Board is to promote the availability of external finance to local businesses seeking to grow thereby adding value to the local economy.

The £10million Growth Challenge 

The Marches Growth Hub has launched a £10million Growth Challenge to businesses across the region to help fire up the economy.

The Hub says there is a £10m pot of business funding available to drive growth and create jobs and is now urging companies and entrepreneurs across Herefordshire, Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin to bid for a share of it.

Find out more on the Marches Growth Hub website.

Marches Investment Fund (MIF)

In 2012, The Marches LEP was awarded £8.1 million by the Government from the Growing Places Fund (GPF) to be used as a Revolving Loan Scheme. This funding was branded Marches Investment Fund (MIF). The aim of the fund is to provide capital loan funding for stalled housing and business premises projects that, following the injection of capital funding, will be able to start quickly and unlock economic growth. The fund also provides loan assistance for projects to complete their final stage feasibility studies (revenue funding). This funding offers an exciting opportunity to help address the need for investment to unlock development that will create much needed homes and jobs in the Marches area (Herefordshire, Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin).

Over the past 4 years the Marches LEP has found it a real challenge to utilise the allocated funding as a Revolving Loan Scheme. After three rounds of expressions of interest, two projects have been awarded funding. The two live projects, both of which are now in the repayment phase are of a combined investment value of £1.4m providing job creation of 262 full time equivalent new jobs.

As we have not been able to award any further funding, The Marches LEP has been working very closely with Government on alternative options of using the remaining MIF funds. Both the LEP Board (23 May 2017) and Marches Executive Joint Committee (14 June 2017) agreed to the use of MIF as a Recyclable Grant for Public Sector-led schemes including a range of business site projects that did not secure any Government Growth Deal funds in 2017. These public-sector led projects will be subject to an independent appraisal which will establish value for money and will if they meet the scheme criteria be offered an interest free loan rather than a grant. The criteria for Recyclable Grant for Public Sector-led schemes can be found here.

in 2019 work started on a £7.3m redevelopment of Hereford’s Shell Store, transforming the historic building into a flagship business incubation and innovation centre. The Marches LEP is providing a £2.498m interest free loan for the work.

The redevelopment of the derelict building on Skylon Park, at Rotherwas, will create more than 2,000 sq metres of employment space, with room for new and growing businesses to set up and expand alongside facilities for development and innovation, presently earmarked for the new NMiTE University.

The project is being funded via the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)Herefordshire Council and a loan from the Marches LEP’s Marches Investment Fund.

More about the Shell Store project can be found here.

Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF)

The Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF), supported by the European Regional Development Fund, provides commercially focussed finance through Small Business Loans, Debt Finance, Proof of concept and Equity Finance funds.

The MEIF Fund aims to transform the finance landscape for smaller businesses in the Midlands and to realise the region’s potential to achieve economic growth through enterprise.

MEIF is a collaboration between the British Business Bank and ten Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) in the West Midlands and East & South East Midlands.

MEIF provides around £290m of investment to boost small and medium business (SME) growth in the Midlands through four different funding options:

  • small business loans of £25k to £150k for new or growing businesses
  • debt finance of £100k to £1.5m for established businesses that can demonstrate growth potential
  • proof of concept/early stage equity funding up to £750k for start-ups looking to commercialise their innovative new product
  • later stage equity funding of up to £2m for businesses with ambitious growth plans

More information on finance options for smaller businesses can be found in the Access the Business Finance Guide.  This guide has been devised for businesses and advisors by the British Business Bank and the ICAEW Corporate Finance Faculty, supported by a further 21 major professional, membership and representative organisations.  It is a unique guide that sets out the main things to consider and the finance options available to businesses – ranging from start-ups to SMEs and growing mid-sized companies. The guide also includes several tools and ideas to help businesses consider their finance options, make decisions and plan how they will finance expansion.

For all information on MEIF please visit

Further information on access to finance is available from or by calling 0800 998 1098.

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