THE region’s young entrepreneurs can apply for money to help them launch a business under a scheme launched by David Cameron.

During the next three years, ministers will put £82m into the StartUp programme, which will offer loans worth on average £2,500 to people aged 18 to 24 who can show that they have a robust business plan.

The launch coincides with the publication of a report from Lord Young, the Prime Minister’s enterprise advisor, saying that there would be 900,000 more businesses in Britain if it had the same culture of entrepreneurship as the US. He said small businesses are “the engines of any healthy economy”.

Lord Young was appointed as enterprise tsar in 2010, but had resigned within a month after claiming that British people had “never had it so good”. He quietly returned to his role last October in an unpaid capacity.

As well as the loan, which can last up to five years, with an interest rate of Retail Prices Index plus three per cent, participants will also receive help in developing a business plan and training.

James Caan, the entrepreneur and star of the Dragons’ Den television series will chair a body to oversee the allocation of the loans, which will start being paid on a pilot basis this year. Mr Caan said he wants to appoint at least 12 partner organisations to distribute the money. He has asked technology investor Julie Meyer to find private sector organisations to match fund the loans in an effort to expand the scheme.

The Prince’s Trust will also be involved in the new scheme.

Ministers believe more than 30,000 young people could benefit by 2014-15.

“I want this to be the year where people can think: yes, I can do it, that we can get as many viable businesses as possible off the ground, that people can have a go,” said Mr Cameron.

The move came after Sir Richard Branson, founder and chairman of the Virgin Group, said that he wanted to see more support for small and medium-sized businesses.

Sir Richard, who originally proposed the enterprise loans initiative, said that as well as making it easier to set up a business, the Government should cut business rates and called for a national insurance holiday on hiring people in a company’s first two years.