Announced by founder of Poundland, Steven Smith, at the SME LIVE exhibition held at the NEC, Birmingham. The fund is in response to a growing funding gap in the Midlands - estimated to be in excess of £360m - as high street banks withdraw from business lending and step up the rate of branch closures.

ThinCats has so far lent over £340M to Britain's SMEs, including £70M in the Midlands. Funding is now available for Midlands based SMEs looking for £100k to £10m, with applications for finance between £100k-500k facilitated by BizBritain, who have helped over 1000 Midlands SMEs gain access to finance.

No region outside of London and the South East has yet seen GDP per capita return to 2007 levels. Improving the supply and demand for finance among high-growth firms in all regions will help to deliver better economic outcomes nationally and reduce regional inequalities.

James Ashwood, MD of SME LIVE said "This is a truly fantastic opportunity for SMEs as businesses here in the Midlands have been extremely underfunded. As the national exhibition for growing businesses, we couldn't be happier that the news has been announced at SME LIVE."

Damon Walford, Chief Development Officer, ThinCats, commented:

"Earlier this year, the British Business Bank revealed that SMEs in London received more funding than any other region in the UK combined. _

"The government has tried to tackle this regional funding gap with initiatives such as the Midlands Engine Investment Fund and whilst this is a start, at present, the funds are not being deployed quickly enough._

"One of the key challenges lies in the fact that businesses still predominantly turn to their main bank for finance and are less aware of the alternative options. As a Midlands-based business, we feel a deep affinity to the area and a responsibility to help close the funding gap here."

Gary Lennon, Business Development Director, BIZBRITAIN, commented

"This is an exciting time for local SMEs, with the West Midlands being the fastest growing regional economy outside of London and growing businesses require support and finance to achieve their ambitions.

"Working alongside ThinCats, as local people who live and work here, we are keen to aid SMEs to obtain funding that accelerates their future growth and continue to add to the region's prosperity."_