East Anglia’s Dragons’ Den? The angel investors on the hunt for Norfolk and Suffolk’s most innovative companies

Anglia Capital Group. Left to right, Marcus Armes, Andrea Finegan, Robert Alston, Hannah Smith, Pete

Anglia Capital Group. Left to right, Marcus Armes, Andrea Finegan, Robert Alston, Hannah Smith, Peter Briggs. Picture : ANTONY KELLY - Credit: copyright ARCHANT 2017

They style themselves as East Anglia's answer to Dragons' Den – and they are on the lookout for the region's brightest businesses.

The investors of Anglia Capital Group (ACG) have already invested £1.4m in up-and-coming companies in Norfolk and Suffolk, but now want to find the next generation of ambitious firms to back.

With around 20 members, the angel investors' expertise ranges from manufacturing to property, and they are keen to invest in innovative or disruptive companies in emerging fields including med-tech, bio-tech, agri-tech or clean-tech.

The group, based at Norwich Research Park, is also working with New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership's own fund which can match-fund investments up to the value of £250,000. It aims to offer an option for companies which traditional funders find too risky, as well as lending expertise, contacts and mentoring.

Among the angel investors are Peter Briggs, who founded Norwich food labelling business Sinclair International, entrepreneur Robert Alston and property investor Marcus Armes.

Mr Armes said: 'A lot of start-up companies assume they have to go to London to get finance. But that's not the case.

'Our investors want to invest in Norfolk and Suffolk – there's a lot of local loyalty. Innovative deals are beginning to emerge in East Anglia, and I think we are going to play a really big part in that, but we want to find exciting companies to work with.'

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ACG investors have already invested in companies including Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital spin-out Ablatus Therapeutics, and Hethel Engineering Centre-based MSF Technologies, which specialises in energy generation and storage.

But as well as supporting native start-ups in Norfolk and Suffolk, the group is also using the co-investment fund as a lure for others to relocate to the region.

'We are presenting it as a reason for them to come to the area,' said business manager Hannah Smith. 'The LEP co-investment fund is an enticement for them to come here. Cambridge is getting full, so people are looking to come up the A11.'

The next meeting of the Anglia Capital Group, at which businesses will be able to make their pitch, will take place at the Ideas Factory at Norwich University of the Arts on May 23.

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