The government’s new vehicle for backing fast-growing UK companies will launch next week after clearing a crucial state aid hurdle that will pave the way for investments by hundreds of venture capital funds.
Sky News has learnt that the final terms of the £500m Future Fund – to which the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has pledged £250m of taxpayers’ money – will be announced on Monday.
Technology company investors said that Enterprise Capital Funds, which include private investors and public money from the British Business Bank (BBB) had been deemed eligible for Future Fund investment following talks in recent days.
One senior tech figure said the Treasury had been seeking clarity over whether the inclusion of ECFs in the new programme would breach EU state aid rules.
Industry sources said they had been briefed on the development on Friday.
The scale of the ECF’s existing investments, which comprise a significant proportion of the UK venture capital landscape, mean its eligibility will substantially expand the number of companies which can seek money from the new vehicle.
Under the Future Fund’s terms, companies will be able to apply to it for match-funding of between £125,000 and £5m, with the loans ultimately converting into discounted equity if they are not repaid.
That scenario would entail the taxpayer becoming a direct shareholder in UK start-ups.
However, the originally envisaged restriction on companies which have previously raised money through the Enterprise Investment Scheme and the SEIS, which offer tax advantages to individual investors in start-ups, will remain in place.
The Treasury, which declined to comment, is also understood to be examining amending the terms of the Future Fund, which state that a successful applicant must have a UK-based parent company.
That rule has sparked complaints from dozens of start-ups which are backed by US-based ‘accelerator’ programmes and which would, without changes, be deemed ineligible.
Sources said this weekend that applications for Future Fund money were expected to open next Wednesday.