New ‘Net Zero Changemakers’ programme

Debbie Simpson, innovation adviser at the North East BIC with NEL chief executive Dr Yvonne Gale

A new business support programme is set to help North East firms working on low carbon and sustainable projects take their next steps forward.

The Net Zero Changemakers programme is designed to identify and support innovative businesses across the North East Local Enterprise Partnership area who are creating or adapting products, services or processes as part of the region’s low carbon agenda.

Potential participants will be invited to explain the innovations and changes they are looking to make, with those chosen to take part in the programme being matched with the most appropriate support needed to meet their growth ambitions.

The project has been developed by regional fund management firm NEL Fund Managers and the North East SME Innovation Programme at the North East BIC in Sunderland and designed to help SMEs realise their innovation potential.

NEL Fund Managers has around £3m ringfenced for investment in low carbon businesses and projects from the two elements of the £120m North East Fund Supported By The European Regional Development Fund that it manages – the £9m North East Small Loan Fund and the £18m North East Growth Capital Fund.

The SME Innovation Project also offers 40 per cent grant funding for selected projects from £5,000 up to £50,000.

Participating firms will benefit from some or all of the support available through the initiative, which includes grant funding, growth capital investment and a tailored 12-hour business support programme, with additional signposting to further regional and national support organisations being made where required.

Dr Yvonne Gale, chief executive at NEL Fund Managers, says: “Low carbon and sustainable investment is one of the North East Fund’s main priorities, and we’re already making a growing number of such investments in regional firms as a result, but we’re now looking to do even more to support the progress and growth of innovative North East firms that are working in this field.

“The programme will provide practical support in a number of different ways, all of which will combine to have a tangible impact on the opportunities available to those taking part, and we would strongly encourage all businesses across Tyne & Wear, Durham and Northumberland that think they might benefit from taking part to find out more about doing so.”

Debbie Simpson, innovation adviser at the BIC, adds: “Investment in the carbon economy is a major opportunity for the transformation of our region. We are delighted to be involved in this unique programme, enabling businesses to access all the finance and grant support that is available to develop their low carbon innovative products and services.”

David Lynch, Energy Innovation Partnership Manager at the North East LEP, says: “The North East has the skills, innovation assets and capabilities to drive forward innovative solutions to achieve decarbonisation across heat, power and transport.

“The Net Zero Changemakers Programme offers a great level of financial support to bring some of these solutions to market. We look forward to disseminating this programme via the North East Energy Catalyst partnership.”

For further information on the Net Zero Changemakers programme, visit

The overarching £120m North East Fund will provide financial support for more than 600 businesses, creating around 3,500 jobs and delivering a legacy of up to £80m for further investment into the region.

NEL Fund Managers is actively looking for potential investees from Tyne & Wear, Durham and Northumberland to put their investment ideas forward.

For further information about NEL’s investment criteria, visit

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