Brown to reveal plans for venture capital

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The Independent Online
GORDON BROWN is expected to indicate plans to improve tax incentives for investment in venture capital at a conference he is hosting in London today. The conference, held under the auspices of the European Commission and City of London, will also see the announcement of two new venture capital funds amounting to well over pounds 100m.

The need to increase the scale of finance for start-up businesses, especially in high technology, was one of the themes of March's Budget.

The Chancellor then announced an improved Enterprise Investment Scheme, with greater tax incentives but excluding the least risky investments, and a pounds 50m University Challenge Fund for scientists working in universities to bid for "seed" capital.

Of that fund, pounds 20m was provided by the Government, pounds 20m by the Wellcome Trust and Gatsby Trust, and the rest by other private sector sources.

Mr Brown also indicated that he would be exploring ways to improve incentives for managers in high technology start-up companies through "equity based remuneration". Stock option schemes for entrepreneurs have played a large part in fuelling the enormous boom in hi-tech venture capital in the US.

Geoffrey Robinson, the Paymaster General, said yesterday that the Government was concerned about both the small size of the UK venture capital industry and its focus on management buyouts rather than financing start-up businesses.

The amount available for new starts in the UK was just over pounds 1bn compared to nearly pounds 38bn in the US last year - much smaller relative to the size of the economy on this side of the Atlantic. The pounds 1bn also compares to finance for management buyouts expected to reach as much as pounds 20bn this year.

In addition, just 10 per cent of the start-up finance in the UK went to high technology companies compared to 70 per cent in the US.

The UK accounts for 44 per cent of the EU venture capital market. But even though Britain is well ahead of the rest of Europe, the Treasury's Growth Unit has concluded that encouraging venture capital is one way to foster a more entrepreneurial culture.

In a recent speech to the CBI, Mr Brown said: "We need a new approach in Britain to risk-taking. We need to increase the number of entrepreneurs and to raise the survival rate of small businesses."

Other speakers at today's conference include France's finance minister, Dominque Strauss-Kahn, European Commissioner Mario Monti and Sir Brian Unwin, president of the European Investment Bank.

The funds due to be unveiled today will include some investment by the EIB although private finance will play the dominant role.

Outlook, page 25

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