Lincolnshire-based Iventis is changing the way major events and operations are planned.

Its innovative collaborative planning platform is a web-based application where teams can build, develop, share and manage event plans effectively and efficiently. This technology has already been used in planning and preparing events such as the Dubai Expo 2020, the UN Climate Change Conference COP26, and several other major events both in the UK and overseas.

Simon Johnson, former COO of England’s 2018 FIFA World Cup bid, outlines how Iventis’ dynamic event mapping technology is proving vital in the future planning of major events and complex operations.

A new report by leading think tank Bridge India highlights how closer energy sector collaboration between the UK and India could propel bilateral relations between the countries in the next five years.

Bridge India interviewed investors, government stakeholders and businesses in both countries to create a comprehensive look at how to turbo-charge bilateral trade and investment. The report was created in collaboration with Howard Kennedy LLP and Mercia Asset Management, both of which are closely involved in the UK-India corridor in energy and cleantech.

Read the report here

LONDON, 22 APRIL 2021: A new report by leading think tank Bridge India highlights how closer energy sector collaboration between the UK and India could propel bilateral relations between the countries in the next five years.

Bridge India interviewed investors, government stakeholders and businesses in both countries to create a comprehensive look at how to turbo-charge bilateral trade and investment. The report was created in collaboration with Howard Kennedy LLP and Mercia Asset Management, both of which are closely involved in the UK-India corridor in energy and cleantech.

Bridge India is a platform and think that helps India-watchers in the UK and Europe better engage with India on public policy. It hosts high-level dialogues and sector briefings for its members, and leads high-impact trade delegations to India and elsewhere.

The report identifies a huge market opportunity for British SMEs to innovate in the UK but grow in India, which currently remains largely untapped. It features the work of Faradion, the world leader in sodium-ion battery technology, which has expanded its presence significantly in India through licensing and building manufacturing capabilities. Nova Pangea Technologies innovation to valorise waste from sugar cane is another example of British innovation flourishing in India, which is also highlighted in the report.

The report recommends India should further utilise London’s position as the go-to venue of choice for raising green bonds to finance its ambitious climate agenda. In the electric vehicle market, both countries have the opportunity to work together to build international industry champions. In part, this is important to act as a bulwark against China’s dominance of the EV supply chain.

While both markets are taking their first steps towards a hydrogen economy, there is considerable scope for technology sharing as the UK’s CCUS market grows, which could support India’s production of hydrogen from natural gas.

Alex Ellis CMG, British High Commissioner to India, said: “Under Prime Minister Modi’s leadership, India has made remarkable progress in improving energy efficiency and developing new renewables. India now produces some of the cheapest solar energy in the world. The UK is also showing leadership; we have nearly halved our emissions in less than 20 years whilst growing the economy by 75%.”

Gaitri Issar Kumar, IFS, High Commissioner of India to the UK, said: “Our nation’s guiding principle of ‘Aatmanirbhar Bharat’ will, among other things, boost India’s Photo Voltaic cells manufacturing capacity and ensure their quality and competitiveness.”

“I congratulate Bridge India for their initiative in bringing out this Report on the potential of India-UK collaboration in the energy sector. It is a timely and welcome addition to the relevant information base,” she added.

Jonathan Cohen, Head of Energy, Howard Kennedy LLP, said: “The UK is leading the way in the transition to a net zero economy. With India’s vast population, fast-growing economy and rapid urbanisation and industrialisation, there are clearly many areas of mutual interest, knowledge sharing and collaboration between the two nations. This is a very exciting time for the UK-India relationship.”

Julian Viggars, CIO, Mercia Asset Management, said: “Innovation out of the UK will help accelerate India’s progress in the renewable energy sector and this type of collaboration that supports a global transition to a net zero economy should be applauded. Bridge India is a showcase of how countries can work to the benefit of each other and the international community as a whole.”

The UK’s recently announced Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution seeks to make the UK a global leader in green technologies, such as offshore wind, low carbon hydrogen and green transport as well as innovative green finance mechanisms. The International Energy Agency (IEA) expects India to be the largest contributor to the global upswing in renewable energy in 2021, with solar photovoltaic panels (PV) and wind energy playing a key role in this transition.

Read Bridge India’s report here
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Despite the unprecedented challenges of the current COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was another successful year for Mercia Asset Management with the business named the country’s third most active investor.

The landscape of investment into start-ups and scaleups has remained resilient through the entirety of 2020 amid the pandemic, with the number of equity investments throughout the year standing at 1,957, a decrease of only 20 from 2019, according to a recent report published by Beauhurst.

The report has identified Mercia has been one of those driving this activity, continuing to be recognized as  one of the UK’s leading supporters of regional SMEs, completing 136 deals between April and December 2020 alone.

The report found that investment in London plateaued during 2020, whilst the South East, Yorkshire and the Humber and Scotland saw record levels of investment during the year (Edinburgh and Glasgow alone saw a combined investment of £157.1million throughout 2020).

In particular, the COVID-19 pandemic has also shone a light on the importance of investing in healthcare across the country. Beauhurst found that the MedTech industry is one area that has seen markedly increased investment over the past year, raising £192.0million across 82 rounds throughout the past twelve months. In addition to being an active investor in the MedTech space, Mercia has also overseen the sale of The Native Antigen Company for a total cash consideration of up to £18m as well as Abingdon Health’s IPO that raised £22m during this period.

Digital security is another industry that has seen record numbers over the past twelve months. The industry saw a 36% increase in demand for their services and a 26% increase in job opportunities. This can be attributed to the UK’s population spending far more time online working from home, and an increased need for cyber security. This demand can also be seen in Mercia’s investment to support the continued growth of its portfolio in this sector, including companies Atlas Cloud and Intechnica

Critically, Beauhurst’s report highlights  that there are great businesses to be found in the regions, as demonstrated by the level of investment from Mercia last year. This investment has been critical to sustain the growth of these companies that, in turn, play a vital role in contributing to and driving the thriving regions that will help to drive the growth in our economy.

 

 

 

Under the excellent leadership of Paul Taberner, our debt teams have made solid progress over the last six months and despite the economic backdrop they have continued to lend, seeing some of their busiest ever weeks during September and October. The drivers behind this growth are initiatives which the Group has been working hard to bring to fruition over many months.

There is no doubt that COVID-19 has created an unexpected stimulus in demand for debt finance, but the underlying driver behind our growth has been the initiatives that we have been working on for many months. Our debt funding has been critical for businesses that are successfully mitigating the challenges of this pandemic or indeed have experienced positive trends upon which they seek to capitalise.

In April 2020, we announced an extension of our Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (“NPIF”) debt mandate that was increased by c.£30million taking that debt fund alone to over £80million. NPIF is playing a really important role in helping to unlock the potential of small businesses and we are delighted to build on our successful partnership with the British Business Bank (“BBB”), as together we continue to realise the value in the regions.

In May, we announced our accreditation by BBB to lend via NPIF under the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (“CBILS”) from July 2020. This has really helped us to support those businesses that are losing revenue or seeing cash flow disrupted as a result of COVID-19. At a time when many of the high street banks have been unwilling or unable to support small businesses, or indeed unable to react quickly enough, Mercia has been able to resolve these short-term needs through CBILS.

As our business model shows, our output is not solely reliant on publicly-funded initiatives. In September 2020, we announced an additional commitment to our debt funds alongside our well-established investment partner, the Greater Manchester Pension Fund. Mercia SME Loans II, a fund of up to £40million, helps ambitious, regional businesses that are seeking debt finance as they move beyond the cash flow constraints caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The fund will typically lend up to £1.0million to support the growth of regional SMEs, predominantly across the North West of England. Mercia’s first SME Loans fund was launched in 2015 and backed 52 businesses, including high-profile brands such as Harrogate Spring Water and polyurethane fabricators, Rosehill Polymers.

COVID-19 has created challenges that we have not seen since the recession of 2008 and dot-com crash of the late 1990s. Having led investment teams through both periods what I have learnt, and which is the very essence of Mercia today, is the importance of ensuring that we behave responsibly with the right type of capital to deploy at the right time.  Economic downturns such as this will always create short-term funding needs for those businesses and Mercia is well placed to fill that gap, as we help viable businesses return to prosperity.

Investment Director Jill Williams explains how Mercia’s core values have accelerated the Group’s environmental, social and governance (“ESG”) journey and how best practice is vital in moving forward.

Our mantra at Mercia is ‘in the regions, from the regions, to the regions’. We passionately believe in making a positive and sustainable regional impact. This is as much a representation of our core corporate values as it is about driving a wider agenda around the regional funding gap, and the need for fast-growth SMEs to have access to a range of financial support.

Our history and values have therefore formed the foundations on which to build. Codifying these principles around ESG issues into our policies and culture is now a natural extension of our purpose.

Increasingly, ESG is earning its place on the board agenda for companies, small and large. Critically, it is about translating this into real traction in its implementation. Environmental issues have taken centre stage and societal matters such as diversity, social mobility and equality have gathered pace through important aspects such as the Black Lives Matter movement. In addition, corporate and ethical governance affairs have become more nuanced and more pressing.

We continue to progress along our own ESG journey as we define our own internal strategy, whilst also developing our practice around responsible investment decision-making and our active ownership of the businesses we support.

Responsible investment

To paraphrase the Cheshire Cat of Alice in Wonderland, “if you don’t much care where you want to get to, then it doesn’t much matter which way you go”. From every starting point there must be a courageous goal with a course of action plotted to reach it and by which progress can be measured. Using a benchmark that not only acts as a guideline, but is also universally recognised and approved by industry and peers alike, is important. This will differ for each sector, but for Mercia the gold standard is the UN’s Principles for Responsible Investment (“PRI”). Its six principles are “a voluntary and aspirational set of investment principles that offer a menu of possible actions for incorporating ESG issues into investment practice” – essentially, a blueprint to follow that also provides the impact rationale behind each action. We have also been influenced by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals when defining our guiding principles.

Understanding and achieving the beneficial value of ESG is what we believe makes it sustainable. As much as there is an important underlying purpose, there still needs to be a commercial imperative. Mercia recognises that a genuine belief in, and the practice of, sound ESG principles are associated with improved business performance.

Leading by example

Our responsible investment approach will consider the whole of our investment cycle, from deal origination and assessment, through to sustainable value creation and towards realisation.

Mercia has a central team coordinating ESG across the Group, monitoring and assessing what we see as a wealth of opportunities. We will be clearly defining processes and increasing visibility of ESG within the investment decision-making process as well as embracing the monitoring and review of ESG practices, developing key performance indicators and targets. This process was initiated by my appointment as ESG project leader and follows the training that I have undertaken with the British Private Equity & Venture Capital Association.

ESG translated across our portfolio

An essential role for the ESG team is to embed Mercia’s ESG principles across its investment portfolio. Naturally, any ESG considerations will have to be driven and delivered by the portfolio companies’ management teams and boards, assisted by Mercia. This has to be a process of creating and expanding better businesses rather than a simple tick box exercise. We would like to see ESG on all of our portfolio boards’ agendas because we passionately believe in its potential to add value, attract exceptional employees, customers and all stakeholders alike. With nearly 400 companies across the Mercia portfolio, the sooner we start this process, the greater will be that potential.

 

Life sciences is one of Mercia’s areas of focus and investment expertise.

Mercia’s investment track record in the life sciences sector stretches back over 15 years. Today, Mercia manages a portfolio of over 400 businesses through its venture capital, private equity and debt managed funds, of which c 10% by number are in the life sciences sector. . It is notable that all seven life science investments in Mercia’s top 20 holdings originated through its managed funds.

Within the Mercia senior management team, Dr Mark Payton, Peter Dines and Dr Mark Wyatt, all have industry expertise in the sector as well as a long-term investment track record. With over 40 life sciences companies in the group, Mercia also has access to a network of non-executive directors, each a source of potential deal flow and sector contacts.

In association with Edison, watch this fascinating video In this interview with Dr. Mark Payton (CEO), Peter Dines (COO and previous head of life sciences) and Dr Mark Wyatt (investment director) as they discuss Mercia’s approach to investment in the life sciences sector, the impact of COVID-19 and what this might mean for Mercia’s future investment strategy in life sciences.

Following Mercia‘s recent life sciences portfolio, three of Mercia’s portfolio CEOs talk about their businesses with Edison: John Burt, CEO of Medherant; John von Benecke, CEO of Locate Bio; and Dr Harry Lamble, CEO of Sense Biodetection. They discuss the support they have received as part of the Mercia family, how their businesses have progressed, how COVID-19 has accelerated change across the sector and also touch on the likely drivers of future growth.

It may seem counter-intuitive for advisers to suggest their clients make a high-risk and potentially high-return investment into a venture capital focused EIS fund, in an uncertain economic climate. However, in addition to the benefit of investing in high growth technology companies at (potentially) the bottom of the market, there are multiple tax related drivers:

1. Clients are sitting on cash in a low interest rate environment
2. Delay of the tax-efficient investments that were planned for early 2020
3. The stamp duty holiday is driving the sale of second homes creating Capital Gains Tax issues
4. The reduction of Entrepreneurs Relief to £1m
5. Future budgets are likely to increase Capital Gains Tax

Most of these tax-related points are a result (indirectly) of Covid-19; whether that’s the actions that clients have taken during the crisis to increase their cash buffer, or selling their second homes. In addition to the points above, Covid-19 has reminded us all of our mortality, and EIS qualifying assets are out of the estate upon death after two years, or immediately if replacement property relief is available.

After the equity markets crashed in March, the recovery has been strong and markets are now potentially overpriced. The companies that EIS invests into are not directly affected by market volatility, as they are unquoted and can grow very quickly in markets that have been positively impacted by Covid-19, such as the medical devices, remote working, digitsation, food delivery and gaming. In isolation, each small company is high-risk, but through diverse portfolio construction, these risks can be managed, and the high-return nature captured.

The combination of managing income tax and capital gains through EIS, and substantial new market opportunities for small companies, means that financial advisers are seeing good reason to consider EIS at the moment.

For more information, please get in touch with Russell Fryer or the Mercia EIS Team.

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