Following the publication of the Government’s annual review into the Enterprise Investment and Seed Enterprise Investment Schemes (EIS and SEIS) on 5 May, the EIS Association (EISA), the trade association that supports private sector investment into growth businesses, is highlighting the importance of the Schemes in addressing the levelling up agenda.
The Report published by HMRC looks at the number of growth businesses using the Schemes to secure private sector investment and the data shows that the Schemes continue to play a vital role in helping start-ups secure the funding they need to grow.
Whilst it indicates that the smaller businesses that typically make use of the EIS and SEIS remained confident during the pandemic with the number of businesses raising SEIS and EIS investment consistent with previous years, the later stage start-ups using the Enterprise Investment Scheme showed a dip in the first three quarters of the year. The final quarter however saw a return to confidence with the number of users higher than the same quarter in the previous year, and 2021/22 evidences a 12% increase in businesses applying to HMRC for pre investment assurances of acceptance under the EIS.
The key piece of evidence however that the EISA is highlighting is the geographic concentration of investment into London and the South East, where two thirds of the £2 billion made available in 2020/21 was invested. It is worth noting that a business’s economic activity is often not limited to its registered address but, nonetheless, the data suggests that more could be done to raise awareness of SEIS and EIS across the Regions. There is also concern that the EIS maximum permitted age limit is “exacerbating regional disparities” and EISA welcomes the Treasury Select Committee’s Inquiry into how the SEIS and EIS could better support the levelling up agenda.
Director General of the EISA, Christiana Stewart-Lockhart said, “Notwithstanding the pandemic, during 2020/21 nearly £2 billion of private sector investment has been made available through the SEIS and EIS to provide early-stage capital to more than 5800 growth businesses. This is clear evidence of the importance of these incentives in terms of contribution to our economic recovery and the future GDP of the country.
“But the complete regional imbalance of where the investments are made demonstrates both a lost opportunity and also a huge potential opportunity as the Government’s plans for levelling up are taken forward. Whilst about 65% of the investments go to businesses that are based in London and the South East, less than two percent goes to the North East, with Wales, the East Midlands and the North generally being heavily under served.
“This is a strong focus for the EISA as we work to profile the availability of the SEIS and EIS equally to all regions of the UK.”