Mrs Hart made the announcement during a visit to Biotec in Bridgend - one of Wales’ leading life science companies that is expanding operations following funding from the Welsh Government’s Economic Growth Fund and the Wales JEREMIE Fund.
The new four-year SME Investment Fund, worth £40m, will be managed by Finance Wales.
Mrs Hart said:
"This new fund forms part of a very comprehensive package of funding support from the Welsh Government for small, medium and micro sized businesses in Wales.
"The new Fund will provide wider access for SMEs which means that more will be eligible to apply for support. I am pleased to say it will cater for large and strategically important sections of the SME market that are not eligible for support under the already highly-successful European-backed Wales JEREMIE Fund.
"Access to finance is essential for business growth and job creation and I am delighted to be here at Biotec today to hear about their expansion plans.
"Biotec is just one example of a Welsh company that is trading extremely successfully despite challenging economic conditions and wants to expand to maximise opportunities. We need companies like these to grow the economy and create jobs which is why I am pleased to announce that our latest Fund to support businesses in Wales is now open for applications."
The Wales SME Investment Fund will complement the existing £150 million European-backed Wales JEREMIE fund which provides the Welsh Government’s main source of commercial finance for eligible SMEs. So far, over £80 million has been invested in more than 390 businesses from the Wales JEREMIE fund in just over two years and it has proved to be the best performing fund of its type in the UK.
However, fewer than half of the SMEs in Wales meet the eligibility criteria set out by the European Commission which is why this new fund is so important.
Welcoming the Wales SME investment fund, Finance Wales’ chair, Ian Johnson said:
“Finance Wales welcomes the Welsh Government’s continued commitment to investing in Welsh SMEs with growth potential. This fund is good news as it will widen the number of businesses potentially eligible for investment from us and help build on our already successful track record of backing growing businesses in Wales.”
The Wales SME Investment Fund will ensure more SMEs, including those who sell their goods and services to consumers rather than businesses, become eligible for repayable commercial investment from Finance Wales.