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Northern startups must be prioritised by levelling up, says Manchester VC

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Image credit: Jason Wells / Shutterstock

The government is not prioritising the levelling up agenda in the North to support businesses, according to Manchester-based venture capital investor Jess Jackson.

Speaking on the UKTN Podcast, Jackson, who is an investment manager at northern VC firm Praetura Ventures, said there had been misleading messages of levelling up from the various Conservative governments since the policy was first announced in 2019.

Levelling up is a government policy to spread economic prosperity and development throughout the UK.

“I don’t think they have been committed in any way to levelling up,” Jackson said. “In every aspect of it…we just don’t feel prioritised, and we’ve never felt that way.”

Jackson highlighted the challenges startups and other businesses have in the north of England compared to the ‘golden triangle’ of London, Oxford and Cambridge.

London-based businesses have secured approximately 50% of the UK’s equity deals since 2011 and there has been “no significant change” since 2019, according to a 2023 report published by Beauhurst.

“There’s just way more wealth down there and there always has been,” says Jackson. “It’s a drop in the ocean, what we have here in the North compared to what is down there.”

Jackson said northern England has had to come to terms with fending for itself, despite government claims of levelling up.

“We’ve now become very scrappy as a result of that. Going out and getting what we need ourselves and building it ourselves as much as we’re able to,” Jackson said.

The investor acknowledged the success of some “arms of the government” in directing funds towards northern SMEs, notably the British Business Bank, which has a handful of region-specific funds for areas including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

“Those kinds of products are absolutely vital,” Jackson said. “We just need way more things like that.”