Growth Fund update and insights

It’s now about 18 months since the Growth Fund opened its doors to the first applications in summer of 2015, and I have been in post for a little over year, so what have we learnt and seen? Plenty! So what can I tell you?

After a year of activity Seb provided an update on the level of activity in our pipeline and some of the actions we have taken to improve the process. We continue to received new EOIs and invite further applications, and as of today we have received 51 Expressions of Interest (EoIs). Of those, we have invited 29 organisations to submit full proposals to us for consideration by the Joint Investment Committee of Access, Big Lottery Fund and Big Society Capital.  Twenty-two of these remain active, with three deals having been closed and nineteen currently in the pipeline.

We have signed and announced three funds with social investors;

  • Resonance’s £5m “Health & Wellbeing Challenge Fund”
  • First Ark’s £4m “Invest for Impact” Fund
  • Key Fund’s £5.5m “Northern Impact Fund”

And the first investments are now beginning to be made by those social investors to social sector organisations. When those investments are formally signed we will also provide some details of those deals through regular reports and updates on the activities of the Growth Fund portfolio and the underlying portfolios from Q1 2017 onwards.

We expect to close and announce one more fund investment before the end of this year. We have two other funds that we have made offers to and which are in legal negotiation; with a further five funds on which we are conducting due diligence, which is the final stage of our approval process. So lots of activity and lots to look forward to, but what can I tell you about the themes that have emerged over the last 18 months?

The Growth Fund has received a good range of applications across England, especially in the South West and North West. In fact proposals focused on London and East of England are less well represented at all stages of the pipeline. We are also seeing a spread of funds focused on different scales of geography, from one county to half the country.

We have also seen a good mix of applicants across our three themes, with more applications in the Efficiency theme at the earlier stages of the Growth Fund process and more in New Approaches and Reach as the pipeline has developed which is to be expected given the call for proposals which we made in the summer of 2016.

There aren’t many meaningful trends by impact area being targeted by applicants to the Growth Fund, with the majority of applicants seeking to establish non-specific funds based on geographic regions. However more proposals are now being received for sector or issue based funds which we are excited about.

We are also seeing applications from a variety of organisational types, well beyond the high proportion of existing social investors which we saw in the early days of the Growth Fund.  

So in summary the pipeline is strong with total EoIs and proposals in process well exceeding the funds available; although we are yet to see applications from:

  • Federal charities
  • Local authorities or other public sector bodies, or
  • SME investors who not currently operating social funds.

Similarly we are yet to see any significant number of applications proposing a quasi-equity offer or other types of repayable funding other than loans or grant/loan packages.

Our investment committee is meeting on 30 November to explore these themes in more detail and identify priorities for the next phase of the development of the Growth Fund portfolio. We’ll share the outcome of this process shortly.