Mercia Asset Management PLC, the proactive, regionally focused specialist asset manager with c.£959million of assets under management (“AuM”) is pleased to announce its preliminary results for the year ended 31 March 2022.

We provided a live management presentation and Q&A, presented by Dr Mark Payton, Chief Executive Officer, Martin Glanfield, Chief Financial Officer and Julian Viggars, Chief Investment Officer.

 

Read the full RNS here
Visit our Prelims 2022 area here

 

Mercia Asset Management PLC, the proactive, regionally focused specialist asset manager with c.£959million of assets under management (“AuM”) is pleased to announce its preliminary results for the year ended 31 March 2022.

Highlights

  • Adjusted operating profit up c.152% to £8.4million (2021: £3.3million)
  • Realised gains and finance income totalling £12.2million generated from the sale of Faradion
  • £11.4m fair value movement in direct investments, including fair value uplift of £6.7million in nDreams following significant third-party investment
  • Profit before taxation of £27.4million (2021: £34.0million)
  • Proposed final dividend up c.67% to 0.5 pence per share (2021: 0.3 pence per share)
  • Net assets of £200.6million (2021: 176.0million)
  • Net Assets per share up c.14% to 45.6 pence (2021: 40.0 pence)
  • Cash and short-term liquidity investments of £61.3million (2021: £54.7million)

Managed fund developments

  • Third-party funds under management (“FuM”) of c.£758million (2021: c.£764million) contributed £19.5million in revenue, excluding performance fees, for the year (2021: £18.2million)
  • Cash returned to fund investors from successful realisations of c.£87million (2021: c.£27million)
  • Venture FuM c.£592million (2021: c.£600million)
    • £15.7million successfully raised across three Enterprise Investment Scheme (“EIS”) funds during the year
    • c.£15million additional allocation from British Business Bank under the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund Equity mandate, with effect from 1 November 2021
    • Interim and final dividends totalling £17.0million paid by the three Northern Venture Capital Trusts (“VCTs”), in addition to special dividends paid of £20.8million arising from successful realisations
  • Private equity FuM c.£48million (2021: c.£54million)
    • Portfolio trading and prospects improving post pandemic
  • Debt FuM c.£118million (2021: c.£110million)
    • Accreditation awarded to the Group to deliver debt funding under the Recovery Loan Scheme (“RLS”)
    • c.£11million additional allocation from British Business Bank under the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund Debt mandate, with effect from 1 November 2021

Direct investment portfolio developments

  • Direct investment portfolio fair value of £119.6million (2021: £96.2million), up c.24% notwithstanding the significant investment realisation of Faradion, completed in the year
  • Sale of Faradion in January 2022 resulted in total cash receipts of £19.4million (including a £1.5million loan repayment), generating £9.9million of realised gains together with crystallised loan interest and redemption premiums totalling £2.3million for the year
  • £18.4million net invested into 16 portfolio companies (2021: £15.4million net invested into 19 portfolio companies), including new direct investments into Forensic Analytics Limited and Pimberly Limited
  • Completion of a significant third-party investment into nDreams, resulting in a £6.7million fair value increase to the Group’s investment holding value as at 31 March 2022

Post year end developments

  • In April 2022 the Group’s AuM surpassed £1.0billion, with the three Northern Venture Capital Trusts raising £40.0million through the allotment of new shares, plus Mercia’s maiden Knowledge-intensive Impact EIS Fund raising £4.5million. Both successes reflect continued confidence in the track records of the VCT and EIS portfolios and the investment teams who manage them
  • Demerger from Intechnica of its cybersecurity bot-management business Netacea, to allow both companies to benefit from a refined focus on capitalising on their respective significant growth opportunities. Mercia retains stakes in both businesses post demerger equal in value to its previous holding value
  • Exciting commercial progress continues to be made by the direct investment portfolio
  • Mercia has been accredited as a carbon neutral organisation, demonstrating its commitment to ESG principles

Mark Payton, Chief Executive Officer of Mercia, commented:

“I am pleased to share a set of results that showcase the strength and maturity of Mercia and its business model. The significant success that we have seen during the last two financial years, and our positive future prospects, have been made possible by the combined efforts of everyone connected with Mercia. I would therefore like to express my sincere gratitude to the amazing portfolio companies that we have the privilege to support. As a Group, we are also very appreciative of the growing belief in Mercia from our third-party fund investors, and both VCT and Mercia shareholders, that the UK regions can deliver value and returns. Finally, I would like to thank Mercia’s employees, without whom we would not have become who we are today: #OneMercia.”

Read the full RNS here
Visit our Prelims 2022 area here

 

The Equity Fund Managers from the British Business Bank’s regional funds – the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF), the Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF) and the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Investment Fund (CIOSIF) have all become signatories of the Investing in Women Code, a commitment by financial services firms to improve female entrepreneurs’ access to tools, resource and finance from the financial services sector.

The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund’s (NPIF) dedicated equity fund managers Maven Capital Partners and Mercia Asset Management, that lead delivery of NPIF – Maven Equity Finance and NPIF – Mercia Equity Finance across the North West, Yorkshire, the Humber and Tees Valley have committed to the Code.

Launched by HM Treasury, the Code commits organisations to promoting female entrepreneurship by having a nominated member of the senior leadership team who will be responsible for supporting equality in access to finance. It also increases the transparency of financial services firms’ data concerning support for female entrepreneurs and encourages adoption of internal practices to improve the outlook for female entrepreneurs.

More than seven in 10 (71%) NPIF funded businesses had at least one woman in their senior management team according to data from the mid-term evaluation of the Fund. Funding from NPIF has supported businesses in increasing workforce skills, bringing new products and services to market and improving business resilience.
Among the seven in 10 NPIF-supported businesses with women in leadership positions, around three in seven had women accounting for at least half of their senior management team. Teesside-based biomass pioneer Nova Pangaea Technologies, Lancashire recruitment firm Fresh Perspective and mental wellbeing technology company Moodbeam are among the female-led businesses supported by NPIF.

Catherine Lewis La Torre, CEO at the British Business Bank, said: “The Investing in Women Code represents a commitment to advancing female entrepreneurship in the United Kingdom. It sets out clear objectives and guidance to signatories and its progress is reported on annually. It is designed to drive a more diverse and inclusive business ecosystem which is beneficial to customers, entrepreneurs, businesses, investors and society.

“At the British Business Bank our goal is to break down barriers for entrepreneurs who face challenges in accessing the finance they need to prosper and grow. Our regional equity funds are brilliant examples of what can be done. The Bank is working with a large number of female founders forming part of an inclusive network of like minded entrepreneurs and investment partners, helping to bridge what was once a significant gender gap.”

Christina Colmer McHugh, Founder and Director at Moodbeam, said: “The support Moodbeam has received from the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund and Mercia has been fantastic. Thanks to investment, we have been able to continue to innovate and grow throughout our journey, bringing a valuable product to market at a crucial time. It is fantastic to see the British Business Bank’s regional equity funds sign up to this Code, and commit to greater support for female business leaders seeking investment.”

Karen de Meza, Portfolio Director at Maven, said: “Whilst there have been positive signs of change, female founders sadly remain few in number and still face many challenges when it comes to securing venture capital. It perhaps begins with perceptions around what an entrepreneur looks like, aligned with gaining access to venture capital firms and their networks, and a lack of representation of women in the industry may not always support that. The Investing in Women Code is a positive step towards eliminating biases and providing greater opportunities to women in business.”

The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.

 

About The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund
• The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund will invest in Microfinance, Business Loans and Equity Finance sub-funds which will offer financing ranging from £25,000 to £2m, specifically to help small and medium sized businesses secure the funding they need for growth and development.
• The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund is operated by British Business Financial Services Limited, wholly owned by British Business Bank, the UK’s national economic development bank. Established in November 2014, its mission is to make finance markets for smaller businesses work more effectively, enabling those businesses to prosper, grow and build UK economic activity,
• The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund is supported by the European Regional Development Fund, the European Investment Bank, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and British Business Finance Limited, a British Business Bank group company.

• The NPIF covers the following LEP areas: Tees Valley Combined Authority, Greater Manchester, Cheshire and Warrington, Cumbria, Liverpool City Region, Lancashire, Hull and East Yorkshire, Leeds City Region, South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority, York & North Yorkshire
• The project is receiving up to £140,359,192 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding.
• The funds in which Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund invests are open to businesses with material operations, or planning to open material operations, in, Yorkshire and the Humber, the North West and Tees Valley.

About the British Business Bank
The British Business Bank is the UK government’s economic development bank. Established in November 2014, its mission is to drive sustainable growth and prosperity across the UK, and to enable the transition to a net zero economy, by improving access to finance for smaller businesses. Its remit is to design, deliver and efficiently manage UK-wide smaller business access to finance programmes for the UK government.

The British Business Bank’s core programmes support over £8.5bn[1] of finance to almost 95,000 smaller businesses[2]. The British Business Bank is responsible for running the government’s Coronavirus business loan schemes and Future Fund, together responsible for delivering £80.4 bn of finance to 1.67m businesses. The schemes are now closed to new applications.

As well as increasing both supply and diversity of finance for UK smaller businesses through its programmes, the Bank works to raise awareness of the finance options available to smaller businesses. The British Business Bank Finance Hub provides independent and impartial information to businesses about their finance options, featuring short films, expert guides, checklists and articles from finance providers to help make their application a success. In light of the coronavirus pandemic and EU Exit, the Finance Hub has expanded and it now targets a wider business audience. It continues to provide information and support for scale-up, high growth and potential high growth businesses, but now provides increased content, information and products for businesses in survival and recovery mindsets. The Finance Hub has been redesigned and repositioned to reflect this, during this period of economic uncertainty.

Data on NPIF support for businesses involving women in leadership roles is taken from a forthcoming interim assessment of NPIF. In 29% of supported businesses women accounted for at least half of the senior management team in the respective business. An additional 42% of supported businesses had at least one woman in their senior management team but had an overall senior management team composition where women took up fewer than half of the positions. This means 71% (=29% + 42%) of businesses had at least one woman in their senior management team.

 

 

UK Mail Digital, one of the UKs leading hybrid mail specialists, has announced the successful completion of a “Management Buy Out” (MBO) from its parent company DHL Parcel UK.

The current Managing Director, Andy Barber has led the deal to take UKMD independent. His experienced team with the knowledge, focus and incentive will aim to create the UK’s undisputed leader in hybrid and digital mail services.

Andy has led its Hybrid Mail (imail) division since its launch in 2009 and has overseen the growth of the division into one of the dominant market players.

The new business is supported by Mercia Asset Management PLC’s Private Equity business who will take a stake in the company with finance facilities provided by leading alternative finance provider to mid-sized SMEs, Thincats.

The Hybrid market represents a huge opportunity, with under 20% of the 2bn item franked mail market currently served by hybrid providers. The existing management team will continue to drive UKMD forward as a stand-alone business.

The transaction will be a seamless transition for customers and suppliers – with a strong supportive relationship with DHL remaining in place, there will be no change for customers to any existing arrangements and services.

Further investment in market-leading product and service developments will follow the completion of the deal with further updates provided over coming weeks.

Andy Barber said “I am delighted that Mercia Asset Management have backed me and my great team to conclude this deal along with the financial support of Thincats Limited. Owing to the excellent assistance from an expert set of advisors we now have the chance to take this business forward to new levels and have some great plans which will unfold over the course of the next few months”.

Jill Williams, Investment Director Mercia Asset Management “We were attracted by the growth of the business to date, the interesting market environment, and the opportunity to back an experienced and committed MBO team focused on accelerating and delivering further growth. This is an important management buyout transaction for Mercia’s Private Equity team as it is our first in the Midlands, which is a key region for growth in the UK. I look forward to joining the Board.

David Parr, Director, Regional Business Development, Thincats “We are delighted to have been able to get to know the team at UKMD, and to understand their strategy and the impressive plans that they have for future growth.  ThinCats specialises in supporting growing mid-sized businesses with ambitious management teams, and UKMD fits the description very well.”

Macintyre Hudson advised the management team from the outset from the structuring of the transaction through to completion with specific financing advice provided by Dow Schofield Watts. Hill Dickinson provided buy-side legal support throughout the transaction.

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A Liverpool-based leisure company whose facilities allow for people of all ages to get into shape via indoor climbing, has raised £4.0m to further develop its facilities and expand its venues.

The Climbing Hangar has raised funds from Mercia’s Northern Venture Capital Trust (VCT) Funds across three rounds of investment. The latest round of funding follows £6m of investment by the Northern VCTs to date, and will allow the company to further accelerate its expansion to new venues across the UK in the future.

The Climbing Hangar, which was founded in 2011, is a five-site, fast-growing chain of indoor climbing walls that is focused on growth through access, community and inclusivity. The company was founded by current CEO Ged MacDomhnaill, whose aim was to create a leisure centre that was the first to lower the price barrier for a sport that connects people across age, gender, race, education and income. Ged was wanted climbing to inspire people to happier, healthier more connected lives.

The company currently has five sites under its umbrella: two in Liverpool and one in London, Swansea and Plymouth respectively, with a site in Sheffield nearing completion. With c.110 employees currently working for The Climbing Hangar, the company will look to further build on the c.12,000 climbers that visit the centres each month (c.4,000 of which are currently members).

Ged, CEO of The Climbing Hangar said: “The investment is absolutely crucial, especially after the year we have had. Mercia has had the confidence in us and the business in these incredibly challenging times to continue to invest in growth. Our team are incredibly excited by this vote of confidence, and this underpins the kind of relationship we have had with Mercia. With this investment we hope to double the size of the company within 18 months and build another five centres in that time.”

 Lee Lindley, Investment Associate at Mercia added: “We’re delighted to be able to provide further investment into The Climbing Hangar as they continue to expand the business across the UK. Ged and the team have developed the country’s best climbing experience for novice and experienced climbers alike, and this investment will allow the company to double its number of sites over the next few years.”
 
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Mercia Asset Management PLC (AIM: MERC), the proactive, regionally focused specialist asset manager with c.£940million of assets under management (“AuM”) is pleased to announce its preliminary results for the year ended 31 March 2021.

Financial results

• Total AuM1 increased by 17.5% to c.£940million (2020: c.£800million)
• Revenue2 increased 50.5% to £19.2million (2020: £12.7million)
• Adjusted operating profit3 £3.3million (2020: £0.5million)
• Net performance fees £3.8million (2020: £nil)
• Realised gains £20.3million (2020: £nil)
• Net fair value increase of £10.1million (2020: £15.8million decrease)
• Operating profit £34.0million (2020: £17.8million loss)
• Profit after taxation £34.5million (2020: £17.5million loss)
• Earnings per share 7.83 pence (2020: loss per share 5.11 pence)
• Proposed final dividend of 0.3 pence per share (2020: nil)
• Unrestricted cash and short-term liquidity investments £54.7million (2020: £30.2million)
• Net assets £176.0million (2020: £141.5million)
• Net assets per share 40.0 pence (2020: 32.1 pence)

1 Including the Group’s consolidated net assets
2 Excluding performance fees
3 Adjusted operating profit is defined as operating profit before performance fees net of variable compensation, realised gains on disposal of investments, fair value movements in investments, share-based payments charge, depreciation, amortisation of intangible assets, movement in fair value of deferred consideration and exceptional items. The reconciliation of adjusted operating profit to operating profit is included in the Chief Financial Officer’s review.

Managed fund developments

• Third-party funds under management (“FuM”) increased by 16.1% to c.£764million (2020: c.£658million) contributing £18.2million in revenue (2020: £11.7million)
• Venture FuM c.£600million (2020: c.£476million)
o Net performance fees totalling £3.8million receivable, following portfolio exits and significant net asset value (“NAV”) increases across the EIS funds and Northern VCTs
• Private equity FuM c.£54million (2020: c.£60million)
• Debt FuM c.£110million (2020: c.£122million)
o CBILS accredited lender for the British Business Bank’s Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund, with a focus on supporting regional businesses throughout Yorkshire and the Humber

Direct investment portfolio developments

• Direct investment portfolio fair value of £96.2million (2020: £87.5million), up 10% notwithstanding four investment realisations completed in the year
• £15.4million net invested into 19 portfolio companies (2020: £15.7million net invested into 18 portfolio companies), including new direct investments into Sense Biodetection and MIP Diagnostics
• Sale of The Native Antigen Company in July 2020 realised total cash receipts of £5.2million and a realised gain of £1.8million
• Sale of Clear Review in October 2020 generated total cash receipts of £1.0million and a realised gain of £0.5million
• Key strategic objective completed with the sale of Oxford Genetics in March 2021. Total cash proceeds of £30.7m ‘evergreens’ the Group’s balance sheet whilst crystallising a realised gain of £18.0million, a 5x return on Mercia’s original direct investment cost of £6.1million and a 51% internal rate of return (“IRR”)

Post year end developments

• Proprietary capital invested of £0.5million in Medherant and £0.3million in Eyoto post year end
• Continuing commercial progress is being made by the majority of the direct portfolio, including each of the top five direct investments by holding value

Mark Payton, Chief Executive Officer of Mercia, commented:

“In the twelve months to 31 March 2021 Mercia performed strongly. Our venture capital activities – both managed funds and held directly – had their strongest year so far, our debt team completed a record number of transactions and our private equity portfolio has returned to growth.

The Group is now strongly cash generative with adjusted operating profits supporting our progressive dividend policy. This, coupled with the robust performance of our direct investment portfolio, has taken NAV per share to 40.0 pence and the interim and proposed final dividends for the year to 0.4 pence per share in total.

Mercia’s hybrid ‘funds first’ regional investment model, combined with our local presence and excellent team, is now delivering in a sustainable manner. As is often the case, this success has been many years in the making and I would like to thank all those that have supported us as we have grown to become the leading provider of connected capital and support to thriving regional businesses. It’s a great pleasure and privilege to work with all of them.”

Read the full RNS here

 

CyberHive, a UK cybersecurity company, today announced a £1.8m investment, co-led by 24Haymarket and Mercia Fund Management’s EIS funds.

CyberHive has developed a patent-protected cybersecurity platform called Trusted Cloud – a cutting-edge technology, co-developed with the University of Oxford. Trusted Cloud uses a patented technique known as ‘hardware-backed distributed whitelisting’ to block cyber attacks and identify breaches in seconds that would go undetected by competing technologies for weeks or even months. Additionally, its ‘Gatekeeper for Office 365′ was designed to secure Microsoft Office 365 up to National Cyber Security Centre standards to protect remote workers from attack.

With this funding, CyberHive will have the ability to take their innovative solutions to a much wider market so that they too can benefit from the huge leaps in security and productivity being enjoyed by the lead customers.

Alan Platt, CEO of CyberHive said: “Our technology provided the perfect way to facilitate secure home-working for key organisations at a critical time using our ‘Gatekeeper for Office 365’ remote working solution. Since then, we have applied the same concepts and technology to protect numerous other applications for large organisations, from remote working solutions to securing cloud computing and handling highly sensitive information.”

Matthew Bowcock, Investor Director representing 24Haymarket, added: “Governments and businesses need to be able to take advantage of new technologies with confidence, especially as remote working has become a reality of life for many. Any attack has to be instantly identified to minimise damage. CyberHive is a world leader in this field and 24Haymarket is excited to be supporting its ambitious growth plans, alongside Mercia.”

Chris Kilroy, Investment Director at Mercia commented: “The increasing threat from cyber attacks is one of the most challenging problems facing governments and commercial organisations globally. CyberHive’s solution is state-of-the-art and the company is led by a strong and highly backable management team. That is why we are excited to invest alongside 24Haymarket to help CyberHive in the next stage of their journey.”

CyberHive’s board is supported by Enda Kenny, who served as Taoiseach of Ireland from 2011 to 2017. Mr Kenny commented: “I am delighted to work with CyberHive to roll this product out globally, putting a stop to the spread of increasingly damaging data breaches that have plagued our society for years.”

A Middlesbrough start-up which could revolutionise the way companies price their products has raised £650,000 from NPIF – Mercia Equity Finance, which is managed by Mercia and is part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund, and private investors.

Bubo.AI’s platform uses artificial intelligence (AI)  to analyse customers’ behaviour to understand what they are willing to pay, then recommends the optimum price to sales staff. The company also supports sales staff to avoid them giving unnecessary discounts.

The platform, which is designed for wholesalers and distributors such as builders’ merchants and food services, allows them to base their prices on customer value rather than cost or other methods, yielding on average a 3 per cent increase in profit.

Bubo.AI has been co-founded by serial entrepreneur Alan Timothy and Polish data analyst Marcin Lisowski who had previously worked together to create a pricing system for a global autoparts supplier.  After failing to find a solution on the market that satisfied their need, they decided to build one themselves. As a result, the company increased profits by almost £2m in just six months.

The two men joined forces with leading AI expert Professor Huseyin Seker of Staffordshire University, and ex-Microsoft marketing veteran David Shell to develop their ideas and create an off-the-shelf solution. Bubo.AI, which was launched in 2019, is now used by clients including Tarmac, while the company has partnered with Teesside University and other institutions to promote the use of AI in pricing. The funding will allow the firm to scale its operations rapidly across Europe and North America.

Alan Timothy, who is CEO of Bubo.AI and who is also founder of software firm i-snapshot, says: “Pricing has previously appeared like a dark art, and traditional approaches are problematic and not very effective. Trying to price match with competitors can lead to price erosion, especially in a downturn, while sales staff often resort to discounting to meet targets.

“Now for the first time our solution means companies can use customer value-based pricing, which could be key for them to recover revenue and build a roadmap to profitability in the post-Covid world.”

Simon Crabtree, Investment Manager at Mercia added: “Research shows that smart pricing is the most effective way to increase profits. However getting it right is difficult, especially for big distributors or wholesalers with many different products and branches. Bubo.AI could help companies to revolutionise their approach to pricing and transform their profitability.”

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “Bubo.AI is a great example of an amazing digital company that’s gone from strength to strength right here in Middlesbrough and just goes to show just how much digital talent Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool has to offer. Our tech and digital firms are helping our businesses, and those across the country, with the problems they face with practical, innovative systems that allow them to get more business done. This will be even more important as we begin to focus on economic recovery following the coronavirus pandemic.

“I wholeheartedly support our innovators, job creators and entrepreneurs, and thanks to the money invested via NPIF, Bubo.AI can continue its successful growth across the globe.”

Sean Hutchinson, Senior Investment Manager at the British Business Bank said: “It’s great to see high-growth companies like Bubo.AI in Teesside using NPIF funding to accelerate their growth globally. As a new software platform, Bubo.AI has the potential to boost regional and economic prosperity which is exactly what NPIF set out to do.”

The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.

 

 

SockMonkey Studios, a Middlesbrough-based games developer, has secured £250,000 from NPIF – Mercia Equity Finance, which is managed by Mercia and part of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund, to launch its first original game.

SockMonkey is set to bring Fish Tanks to market this summer. It will be available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, PC and mobile phone platforms.

SockMonkey was founded in 2013 by Darren Cuthbert and Bob Makin. They were later joined by Darren Falcus, who co-founded Optimus Software – one of the first video game studios on Teesside which was later sold to US publishing giant Acclaim Entertainment.

SockMonkey has seen rapid growth in recent years and increased headcount by 50 per cent in 2019. Its recent projects include adapting the popular PC game Deliver Us The Moon for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, as well as developing the Nintendo Switch version of Prison Architect.

The award-winning studio, which currently employs 18 staff, plans to create a dozen new jobs by the end of this year, and almost triple its staff numbers to 50 by 2021 to support growing demand.

As well as the investment, SockMonkey will also receive practical support from Mercia’s games expert Ron Ashtiani, the former CEO and now Chair of Sumo Group’s Atomhawk business.

Bob Makin, CEO, said: “Having created many hits for other games companies, we are excited to now be launching our first original title later this year, and have additional games already at the prototype stage. With the next generation of video games consoles due to be released by the end of 2020, there’s no better time to create the region’s first ‘superstudio’, putting SockMonkey – and the wider Tees Valley games development community – on the map. This funding, along with Mercia’s knowledge of the games industry, will help us to do that.”

Simon Crabtree of Mercia said: “SockMonkey is a successful studio with a talented and ambitious team. Developing its own games will allow it to benefit from ongoing royalities and add value to the business. With the gaming sector continuing to grow rapidly, it bodes well for the future of the company and the Teesside games industry.”

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “SockMonkey has played a key part in Middlesbrough’s vibrant digital and creative sector for years, and the latest welcome news of the launch of their first original game is set to drive its growth even further.

“Thanks to money invested via NPIF, SockMonkey is going from strength to strength. As well as creating real jobs for local people, it’s another example of businesses in Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool going global with their products, showing our expertise on the world stage.”

Sean Hutchinson, Senior Investment Manager at the British Business Bank, said: “It’s fantastic to see a northern business establishing itself within the thriving gaming sector with its first original title. The NPIF investment will help SockMonkey realise its growth ambitions and create new, highly-skills jobs in the Teeside region. We are proud to work with Mercia and our other fund managers – particularly during this time – to encourage growing businesses to prosper.”

The Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.

A biotech business has raised £1.2m for a new hand-held device that allows paramedics and emergency doctors to diagnose patients who are having a stroke.

Sarissa Biomedical has secured funds from a consortium of investors including the MEIF Proof of Concept & Early Stage Fund, which is managed by Mercia and part of the Midlands Engine Investment Fund, Mercia’s EIS funds, and private investors including Wren Capital and the Wood Family

Sarissa’s new system will be the first of its type for stroke patients and could help improve the prognosis for victims by allowing doctors to diagnose and treat them more quickly. The SMARTChip device can be used on location or at the patient’s bedside and gives results in around five minutes. It contains a disposable biosensor chip which analyses a fingerprick sample of blood and measures the level of purines – chemicals released into the bloodstream within minutes of a stroke.

The funds will allow Coventry-based Sarissa to carry out a clinical study with the NHS and Newcastle University Stroke Research Group, and invest in product manufacture. Established in 2002 as a spin-out from Warwick University, Sarissa produces biosensors for the medical and academic research market.

Stroke is the fourth most common cause of death in the UK and a major cause of adult disability, with stroke care accounting for around five per cent of the entire NHS budget. While effective treatments are available, they need to be used promptly after an attack but currently there is no fast and reliable way to tell if a patient has had a stroke. Patients are assessed on their symptoms and then sent for a CT or MRI scan to confirm the diagnosis. The SMARTChip system also has potential for use in diagnosing other conditions such as heart attacks, peripheral artery disease and foetal hypoxia or ‘blue baby syndrome’.

Dr John Clarkson, CEO of Sarissa, said: ‘This investment is a strong signal of support from Mercia and our other investors and will enable us to begin the clinical evaluation process. We are pleased to say that, despite the current lockdown, we are able to press on with the clinical trials as planned with the aim of bringing this important new test to market as soon as possible.”

Dr Jo Slota-Newson of Mercia said: “This new tool from Sarissa represents a major step forward in reducing the huge toll of disability caused by stroke and relieving the burden on the NHS. Ultimately it could help millions more people by providing a fast and reliable way to diagnose other conditions such as heart attack, enabling patients to benefit from more prompt and effective treatment.”

Ken Cooper, Managing Director at the British Business Bank, said: “The MEIF is still very much open for investment and is committed to driving Midlands’ innovation. This funding into Sarissa is a good example of that. The MEIF investment should allow the company to enter a new growth phase as it progresses clinical studies and invests in its manufacturing capabilities.”

Sean Farnell, board director at the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Coventry and Warwickshire has an excellent reputation for innovation and Sarissa is a perfect example of this. The next stage of its growth has the potential to change lives and this investment will enable Sarissa to take its business to the next level and really make a difference to stroke patients.”

The Midlands Engine Investment Fund project is supported financially by the European Union using funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020 and the European Investment Bank.