Scottish Equity Partners, which has backed some of Scotland's most successful technology companies, has raised £185m for a new growth equity and venture capital fund.

The fundraising is a very substantial one for Glasgow-based SEP, which has enjoyed rapid growth since it emerged from taxpayer-backed economic development agency Scottish Enterprise in 2000. And the funds have been raised in a tough economic climate.

The plans for the new “SEP IV” fund and the amount raised so far were revealed yesterday by the owner-managed SEP, which has backed many high-profile Scottish technology pioneers including flight search company Skyscanner, software group Craneware, and microchip maker Wolfson Microelectronics.

The private equity house, led by managing director Calum Paterson, said that fundraising for the SEP IV vehicle had been undertaken during the last few months and had been focused on SEP’s existing institutional investors.

SEP added that fundraising had “already reached £185m” and highlighted the fact that this exceeded the £160m total raised for its SEP III fund back in 2006.

Mr Paterson, who headed Scottish Development Finance and led this operation’s transformation into SEP when he and his team left the Scottish Enterprise stable in 2000, said: “It is difficult to find reasons to be cheerful on the broader economic front, but there are still opportunities for individual companies to expand.

“I think there is a greater awareness that equity investment is the right way to fund growth and our deal flow has been strong. We have continued to be closely involved with our portfolio companies and to provide them with as much support as we can.”

Mr Paterson acknowledged the climate was more difficult for achieving exits from investments in companies because of the relative lack of flotations in the current climate.

However, far from being downbeat on this score, he said: “Although exits remain hard work in the absence of a vibrant IPO (initial public offering) market, there are grounds for optimism on that front also.”

SEP said it planned to invest the SEP IV fund in high-growth-potential companies in the information technology, energy and healthcare sectors across the UK.

It added that this would follow a similar strategy to that which it had “successfully deployed with its previous funds”.

SEP declined yesterday to disclose its current funds under management total. It employs 25 people and earlier this year recruited Brian McBride, former managing director of online retailer Amazon’s UK business, as a venture partner. Mr McBride joined SEP in April.

At the time the technology-focused venture capital operation moved out of the Scottish Enterprise stable, it had seven fund managers and three support staff.

SEP calculated that, during the last 12 months, it had made investments totalling £31.6 million and completed realisations from its portfolio with an aggregate exit value of £82.6m.

It made an exit recently from Gigle Networks, which was sold to California-based Broadcom for $83m. Gigle is a specialist in multimedia home networking technology, which split its operations between Edinburgh, Barcelona and California, with all the research and development based in Scotland.

Edinburgh-based Skyscanner, which is led by Gareth Williams, is one of the highest-profile Scottish companies in SEP’s current portfolio. The top team at Skyscanner was named by the British Venture Capital Association recently as the Scotland and Northern Ireland venture capital-backed management team of the year.

SEP’s other Scottish investments include Sumerian, the information technology analytics business, and Aridhia, which specialises in healthcare data analytics. SEP is also invested in Livingston-based semiconductor company Elonics.

Scottish companies in which SEP has invested in the past include video-over-internet pioneer IndigoVision, which was floated in 2000, and the Alternative Investment Market-listed Craneware, which has enjoyed great success with its software offering in the US healthcare sector.

SEP, in its Scottish Development Finance days, was the first venture capitalist to back network management software company Atlantech Technologies. Atlantech, which was based in Cumbernauld near Glasgow and run by entrepreneur David Sibbald, was sold to US giant Cisco Systems for $180m back in 2000. SEP also backed Scottish company Orbital Software, which had a troubled time after floating on the stock market in 2000 and was acquired by Sopheon the following year.

SEP declined to comment yesterday on which institutional investors had backed its latest fund.

Scottish institutions were among those who backed the SEP III fund. Scottish Widows Investment Partnership and Royal Bank of Scotland both invested in SEP III.

SEP’s deal size is typically £2m to £5m for earlier-stage companies. This typical size rises to between £5m and £15m for more established companies.