UK government's Future Fund backs a potpourri of companies

The Future Fund was launched in May last year to offer loans to help loss-making start-ups

Rishi Sunak

Her Majesty’s Treasury has published the names of 158 companies that have taken advantage of the government’s Future Fund initiative and they include Vaccitech, co-inventor of the AstraZeneca PLC (LSE:AZN) COVID-19 vaccine.

The Future Fund scheme was set up to enable the government to give a leg-up to small, innovative companies that might otherwise have found it hard to raise capital during the coronavirus pandemic.

Among those that received some money in exchange for giving up equity stakes in their business are a kombucha drinks maker, a ticketing platform, a shipbuilder, a banking app, a knitting and crochet supplier, a wind farm, a shopping app developer and a luxury handbag rental service.

The list, published by the British Business Bank (BBB), reveals that the government has spent about £1.1bn supporting 1,190 through the fund, of which 158 have had their loans converted into equity stakes after the companies found matching backing from the private sector.

The list only names those companies that have had their loans converted into equity stakes.

The idea of a government attempting to “back winners” fell out of favour during the Thatcher era as the prevailing ideology became one that believed this sort of thing was best left to the private sector. Just as the pandemic has seen a return to favour of Keynesian economics, so the government has changed tack and is now willing to take stakes in loss-making companies that are looking to grow, which makes a change from the usual government practice of bailing out systemically important loss-making companies that have spectacularly failed in the private sector.

“Investing in these companies has the potential to accelerate innovations that will transform UK industry, develop new medicines and strengthen our position as a science superpower,” said Rishi Sunak, the chancellor of the exchequer.

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