Connect Midlands, the largest Connect organisation nationally and of similar scale to the founding Connect San Diego USA, is also a founding member of Connect UK which is a network of both established and embryonic Connect organisations in the United Kingdom.
A programme which aims to provide science, engineering, technology, and high-growth companies, with the tools that they need to develop and to raise investment, is set to be the basis of similar programmes across the country in 2009. The Connect InvoRed investment readiness programme, run by Connect Midlands on behalf of East Midlands Development Agency (emda), Advantage West Midlands (AWM) and Business Link West Midlands, has been identified by the Department For Business and Regulatory Reform (BERR) as a best practice model for access to finance. John Griffiths, director of Connect Midlands who operate out of University of Warwick, said; “The Government has been keen to make the thousands of public sector business support programmes more efficient and streamlined for some time and this year, all regional development agencies (RDAs) are expected to make use of what are now just 30 programmes under the banner of Solutions for Business. “Connect InvoRed was put forward as a model for best practice by our East Midlands regional development agency, emda, to assist in the consultation process and we were brought into the team to work alongside BERR to help develop the national framework for investment readiness. “A delegation from BERR and from their Enterprise Capital Funds team came to see one of our Amber Workshops in action for themselves and liked what they saw. The national framework, built up over the last six months, will act as guidance for RDAs from now on.” InvoRed has been running across the Midlands in various forms, including a successful pilot phase, since 2003, and is delivered through a range of workshops, assessment panels and one to one coaching where delegates learn how to create a winning business proposition and how to prepare for that all important investment deal. Key issues are vision and strategy, management team, routes to market and finance (how much, when, for what use). Connect Midland's investment readiness programmes have been evaluated by Angle plc and SQW Consulting and given strong endorsements. To date, Connect Midlands has worked with over 1,200 companies enabling over 600 companies to present to investors, raising funding in excess of £135m, creating and preserving employment and helping grow the economy for the Midlands region. Mr Griffiths continues; “There are four levels of support available within the InvoRed programme. Right Funds for You is the start and helps companies understand finance options such as grants, debt, angel finance and venture capital. Amber stream workshops and assessment panels are then for entrepreneurs at an early stage who are seeking their first round of company funding and then Green stream, which is one-to-one coaching, is for more experienced entrepreneurs or businesses with real growth potential that typically have a business model and a management team in place. “We use experienced coaches and industry specialists to help deliver the programme of workshops and mentoring throughout the region. Companies developing compelling high-quality propositions through the programme may then also be selected to present to investors at our exclusive investment raising platforms or introduced to funds via other networks. We can also offer some follow-on support to help the deal closing process.”