HC Deb 21 January 1999 vol 323 cc1016-7
10. Dr. Phyllis Starkey (Milton Keynes, South-West)

What measures he is planning to help new start-ups in the regions. [65200]

The Minister for Small Firms, Trade and Industry (Mr. Michael Wills)

Support for start-ups is seen as making a significant contribution to economic growth, prosperity and competitiveness. The recent competitiveness White Paper set out a commitment for business link partnerships to provide sustained, tailored advice and support to innovative start-ups with real growth potential. Our target is that at least 10,000 businesses a year will receive such support by 2001.

Dr. Starkey

My hon. Friend will be aware that UK science is at the international forefront in biotechnology, but that there is a relatively poor take-up of biotechnology in start-ups of small firms in the UK, compared with the United States. The major advantage in the United States is the ready availability of venture capital for such biotechnology firms. What action are the Government taking to ensure that venture capital is readily available here in every region?

Mr. Wills

My hon. Friend draws attention to an important matter. It is crucial that start-ups, especially in high technology, get access to the right sort of capital. The competitiveness White Paper set up plans to that end. We are setting up an enterprise fund worth £150 million over three years. There will be a national venture capital fund, which we are currently discussing with leading financial institutions. We also want to set up regional venture capital funds, and we will work with the regional development agencies to develop that proposal.