A Bradford-based fund which provides a crucial lifeline to businesses struggling to find finance is looking to double its lending over the next 12 months and has opened a second office in Leeds as part of its expansion.

The Little Germany-based Business Enterprise Fund has hired investment managers John Hall and Hilary Watson to run its new Leeds city centre operation at Park Square East.

Fund director Stephen Waud said the move into Yorkshire’s financial hub underlined the progress of BEF, which is supported financially by the European Union and has attracted £10 million investment from the European Regional Development Fund.

BEF has seen 75 per cent growth in the past 12 months and is planning to double its assistance in the next 12 months, taking the loans issued to West and North Yorkshire companies to £4 million.

The fund has also been appointed to administer a new Government-funded scheme offering loans to 18-to-30-year-olds across the region to help their fledgling companies.

New research by GHK has shown that more than 100,000 businesses are unable to source finance from the banks and BEF sees Leeds as an increasing market for its services.

Stephen Waud said: “We facilitated more than 100 loans in 2012 and we want to double that this year and lend £4 million to boost businesses with the support they need. Without BEF some of these businesses would stand still at best or could face folding completely, which would hurt the already fragile economy in the region.

“We’re delighted to welcome John and Hilary to our team and I’m sure they will be great assets to us. We’re equally pleased they will be able to work in our great new offices in Leeds. It is a really positive move for us and is an ideal step for us to reach out to more businesses across the county and provide them with the crucial help and assistance they need to grow.”

Nationally, £112 million will fund the scheme, which is being run by the Start-up Loans Company chaired by TV’s Dragons’ Den entrepreneur James Caan.

Stephen Waud said loans were not restricted to those turned down by a bank and would charge interest of about six per cent. Applicants will also get additional business support from BEF and Mr Waud hopes to complete 40 loans in the next two months.

To find out more about the scheme go to befund.org, call 0845 2003919 or e-mail info@befund.org. Follow BEF on Twitter at @be_fund.