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Davies Wallis Foyster (DWF) has used the expertise it has gained in handling Objective One funding in Merseyside to develop a blueprint for other qualifying regions.
The firm has been involved in the Merseyside Special Investment Fund (MSIF), which was set up with EU money, since its beginning, but now the MSIF structure is expected to be adopted by other regions as a blueprint for attracting EU investment. The law firm's work has led to Merseyside, Wales, South Yorkshire and Cornwall receiving a total of £200m from the EU. In 1993, DWF began work on the original MSIF, a £32m EU fund providing loans and equity to small businesses in the Merseyside region. The money came from Objective One funding, which is granted by the EU to areas that have a gross domestic product of less than 75 per cent of the EU average. The firm has now expanded the original agreement so that three other Objective One status areas will receive similar funds. Eversheds in Cardiff advised on the Welsh aspect of the fund, DLA and Nabarro Nathanson on the Yorkshire fund and Stephens & Scown on the Cornish part of the agreement. DWF partner Mark O'Conner led the team and oversaw the work of the other firms involved. DWF lawyer Philip Whitehurst, who worked on the deal, explained: "The document wasn't set in stone and other regions were free to change things. We led the way, but each region had its own legal adviser." This is the first time the four regions have worked together in cooperation with the EU. The fund is set to benefit small and medium-sized businesses in each of the regions. DWF is confident that its work on the expanded MSIF fund will become a blueprint for other regions to go to the EU for financial help. DWF also worked with accountancy firm Ernst & Young to ensure that the structure of the investment fund complied with EU regulations regarding state aid.