Enterprise Capital Fund
Enterprise Capital Funds are financial schemes established by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) in the United Kingdom to address a market weakness in the provision of equity finance to UK small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Government funding is used alongside private sector funds to establish funds that operate within the ‘equity gap’; targeting investments of up to £2m that have the potential to provide a good commercial return. The first five funds supported under the scheme were launched in 2006-7 following a pathfinder competition. A further three funds were awarded ECF status in 2007 and have now been launched. As of April 2013, 12 ECFs have been launched or announced.
Capital for Enterprise
As of 1 April 2008, responsibility for the management of ECFs along with BIS’s other equity funds and the Small Firms Loan Guarantee (SFLG) was transferred to a new body, Capital for Enterprise Limited (CfEL). This change did not change the nature of the funds or their policy objectives.
CfEL was incorporated in March 2007 as a private limited company wholly owned by BIS, and commenced actively trading in April 2008. It is an asset management business specialising in designing and managing support programmes for SME finance. Its position in the SME finance markets provides it with a unique ability to inform and implement Government policy on those markets.
The current funds as of April 2013 are:
European Commission investigation
In November 2013, Enterprise Capital Funds came in for scrutiny from the European Commission after several UK government-backed funds were found to be investing in SMEs beyond the guidelines permitted by EU law. One implication is that such businesses could be forced to hand back millions of pounds to the Treasury.