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Driving the growth of SMEs, improving their productivity and developing ‘globally distinctive’ industries are key priorities for Manchester’s economy, according to the city council’s Chief Executive Sir Howard Bernstein.

Addressing some of the city’s leading financiers, he invited them to suggest ‘smarter ways’ to use the funding to help SMEs expand and to incentivize firms to make greater use of automation to increase productivity. He said he was also open to ideas on how Manchester could best access investment from the next round of the Government’s Local Growth Fund.

Sir Howard was speaking at a breakfast event organized by Enterprise Ventures (part of Mercia Technologies PLC) and Santander Corporate & Commercial following the launch of Enterprise Ventures SME Loans fund which is backed by Greater Manchester Pension Fund and Santander. He said the Northern Powerhouse not only offered an opportunity to increase investment in transport but also to ‘drive new patterns of international trade and investment’ – and that the corporate finance community could play a part in that.

“Life sciences, creative and digital industries, advanced materials . . . we know from the collaboration on a global scale within the city that there are real opportunities to drive our economy,” Sir Howard said. “We want the Northern Powerhouse to focus on driving these globally distinctive industries. The commercial and professional services sectors are key enablers to facilitate our ambitions for these growth sectors.”

Jonathan Diggines, Executive Director – Funds, praised the collaboration between the public and private sector within the city. “Manchester has a great track record for making things happen. The partnership between Greater Manchester Pension Fund and Santander, which made the Enterprise Ventures SME Loans fund possible, demonstrates this spirit of collaboration and could be a prototype of things to come.”

Damian McGann, Divisional Managing Director – North of England, at Santander UK Corporate & Commercial said: SMEs need access to multiple sources of finance so it is great to see that this collaboration between Enterprise Ventures and Santander plugs a gap in the market and allows us to support SMEs across the Northern Powerhouse with their growth plans.”