The new Scottish Loan Fund (SLF), worth £55m, is now open to applications for loans from eligible businesses across Scotland.
The fund will provide loans of between £250,000 and £5 million and will target those companies which demonstrate growth or the intention to grow and exporting firms, as they have the most to contribute to Scotland's economic growth.
Speaking following the announcement, John Swinney said that the SLF will be managed by independent fund managers, Maven Capital Partners, who will develop an increased presence in Scotland specifically for that purpose.
The Finance Secretary was also able to announce an additional £5m in public sector investment has been secured for the Highlands and Islands, further strengthening the fund's availability to eligible firms across all of Scotland.
And further work is ongoing with the potential to bring in further considerable private sector investment to boost the SLF even further.
Mr Swinney said: "Scotland's economy is strengthening. We are the only nation in the UK with rising employment and falling unemployment. After a shorter and shallower recession than the UK as a whole, the latest GDP figures show growth continuing to take hold.
"Crucial to these positive signs has been the swift and decisive action the Scottish Government took through its economic recovery plan. News that the Scottish Loan Fund is open for business is a vital part of the ongoing delivery of that plan and great news for Scottish companies and our economy as a whole.
"The £55 million fund will provide vital support for companies in two key areas - supporting our exporters and addressing the issues with access to finance that we know have held back companies with real potential for growth.
"We have now selected Maven Capital Partners as the fund managers for the Scottish Loan Fund. This is an excellent outcome and one that ensures that the Loan Fund will be run on sound commercial principles, maximising the potential returns to the Scottish economy.
"We are working closely with Maven to ensure that potentially eligible companies seeking loan finance are aware that the fund is now open for business.
"I am also very pleased to say we have added a further £5m to the original £50m resources available for the Fund thanks to an extra £2m in ERDF, secured under the Highlands and Islands Programme, matched with £3m commitment from Highlands & Islands Enterprise. This brings the total public sector commitment to £55m, and further strengthens the Loan Fund's availability to eligible firms right across Scotland."
Andrew Craig, Partner at Maven, Glasgow said: "As one of the UK's most experienced and active private equity fund managers and with many years experience of investing and supporting UK SMEs, the team at Maven is delighted to be working with the Scottish Investment Bank to deliver the objectives of the SLF. Given the challenging conditions for the economy, there is a clear need for this type of funding and our current Scottish based investment team are very much open for business and look forward to working in partnership alongside Scottish SMEs."
Highlands and Islands Enterprise Chief Executive Alex Paterson said: "We know from talking to our business clients across the Highlands and Islands that many have been finding it harder to access debt capital since the 2008 banking crisis.
"The creation of the Scottish Loan Fund is an important step in addressing this issue. The Fund will be particularly helpful to ambitious businesses which are currently struggling to obtain commercial funding."
Scottish Enterprise Chief Executive, Lena Wilson said: "It is extremely rewarding and exciting to see the Scottish Loan Fund ready for business after many months of hard work competitively procuring a high quality fund manager.
"The fund will complement the Scottish Investment Bank's existing equity finance funds by supporting established growth and exporting businesses as they continue to experience difficulty in raising finance in the current economic climate."
The STUC's Stephen Boyd said: "The STUC enthusiastically welcomes the additional support for growing Scottish companies to be provided through the Scottish Loan Fund.
"The STUC has long identified the inability of companies to access affordable, committed capital as a key structural problem in the Scottish economy. The announcement of the new Fund represents the latest important step along the Scottish Investment Bank's evolution into an institution that will make a genuine difference.
"At a time when many are questioning their value, it is important to recognise the role of Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise in the development of the Fund and the range of investment support mechanisms already available through the Scottish Investment Bank."
Iain McMillan, Director - CBI Scotland, said: "CBI Scotland is pleased to see the launch of the Scottish Loan Fund. At a time of continuing tightness in the credit markets, this fund is a welcome addition to the range of lending options available for businesses in Scotland. The Scottish Government deserves credit for developing this facility for Scotland's business community."
David Watt, Executive Director - Institute of Directors (IoD) Scotland, said: "Access to funding remains the biggest limitation to growing Scottish businesses right now. In particular expansion and internationalisation which are vital to getting our economy back on track are dependant on the necessary financial support being available. The IoD in Scotland welcomes this initiative."
For more information, see the Scottish Investment Bank pages on the Scottish Enterprise website.