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 (the Marches Investment Fund (MIF)). This provides capital loan funding for stalled housing and business premises projects that, following the injection of capital funding, would be able to start quickly and unlock economic growth.

Initially, two projects were awarded funding and are now in the repayment phase of a combined investment value of £1.4m which was expected to create 262 new jobs.

The Marches LEP has worked closely with Government on alternative options of using the remaining MIF funds. In 2017, it was agreed by the LEP Board and the Marches Executive Joint Committee to use 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.  These public-sector led projects would be subject to an independent appraisal to establish value for money and, if successful, would 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 NMITE.

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.

Exceptionally, £1.58 million of MIF (comprising interest and loan repayments) has been allocated by the LEP Board to support economic recovery activities following the impact of flooding and Covid-19 upon our business communities.  More information on this funding allocation may 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 £250m 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 

Midlands Engine Investment Fund – Two Years On – Impact Webinar is available to view here

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

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