The government is promising to create or safeguard more than 100,000 jobs in England, with an investment of £450m.
The Regional Growth Fund has provisionally accepted 50 bids for support from firms and partnerships.
They include expanding a sweet factory in Wakefield, redeveloping a former eye hospital in Manchester and building a manufacturing plant in Teesside.
Labour said the coalition had actually cut funding for regional growth by two thirds, putting many jobs at risk.
The Regional Growth Fund was created last year to replace the nine Regional Development Agencies which were set up by Labour but axed by the coalition.
Mr Clegg has launched the fund in Manchester alongside former Conservative minister Lord Heseltine.
They say 27,000 jobs will be directly created or safeguarded with the £450m investment, with tens of thousands of others supported in associated supply chains.
Business Secretary Vince Cable told the BBC: "It's targeted at those areas which have got significant deprivation, or which may be hit by cuts and losses in public sector employment.
"It concentrates on projects which bring in a lot of private investment alongside them So, for the £450m, we think that will generate £2.5bn of private sector employment."
Mr Cable said most of the direct jobs created would be in the north-east of England, with the north-east and north-west combined accounting for just under half of the total.
The south-east and East Anglia had only one bid accepted.
Among the winners are the Liverpool Echo and the Western Daily Press newspapers. They plan to run competitions in which small businesses will compete for grants of between £10,000 and £100,000.
Critics say the pot of money available is too small and the business secretary admitted some bidders would miss out.
"In some cases the projects aren't very good, but in many cases it's because public money is scarce," he said.
"But the Labour cry of 'Let's spend more money'... unfortunately, that's why we're in the mess we're in."
The rest of the growth fund, which adds up to £1.4bn in total, will be allocated later following a second round of bids, which opened on Tuesday.
For Labour, shadow business secretary John Denham said: "By cutting funding for regional growth by two thirds the Tory-led government is choking off the funding needed for regions to grow and create the jobs our economy needs.
"The government is allocating £1.4bn over three years to projects, two thirds less than the £1.4bn a year Labour were investing through the RDAs alone.
"The desire to cut too far and too fast has caused growth to be revised down and the unemployment forecast to rise, all while government is holding back support for businesses looking for investment which will help regions to create jobs and ease reliance on the public sector.
"There are more losers than winners with today's announcement."
Mr Denham said Labour would have added an extra £200m to the funding announced on Tuesday through a repeat of the bankers bonus tax, as a "quick but effective way of supporting growth and creating jobs".
The Regional Growth Fund was praised by the Engineering Employers Federation as a "welcome focus on supporting investment in research and development and backing high quality jobs in growing manufacturing sectors".
And the Carbon Trust said it had received £1.9m from the fund, to be spent on energy efficiency projects and the creation of 3,000 jobs.