HIE firms targeted

Business accelerator looks for Scottish talent

Lucy-Rose WalkerMore than 30 entrepreneurs from across the Highlands and Islands are being sought to take part in a virtual support programme to accelerate commercialisation of their business ideas.

The virtual entrepreneurial accelerator programme will be officially launched today.

Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) has teamed up with Entrepreneurial Spark to deliver the pilot programme which is the first of its kind in the UK.

Additional funding is being provided by Scottish Government and law firm Harper Macleod, while the Royal Bank of Scotland is to provide specialist mentors.

The pilot accelerator is primarily aimed at supporting pre-start and young business ventures, but is also open to more mature businesses looking to kick start growth. The three month pilot will take place between September and December.

The Entrepreneurial Spark accelerator approach has been hugely successful in other parts of Scotland, the UK and overseas. To date, it has supported 660 companies, helping them to raise more than £45 million in investment, generate turnover of £85 million, and create more than 1,800 jobs.

In the past it has not been practical to run the accelerator in the Highlands and Islands due to geographical challenges, as groups of participants need to work together. Now however, with massive improvements in the region’s digital connectivity and use of technology, HIE believes contact can be facilitated in virtual form.

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Entrepreneurs will have access to a suite of ten online modules on key business topics. Entrepreneurial Spark Enablers will challenge the business leader and they will also be connected with mentors who will provide specialist advice.

Groups of participants will collaborate on shared issues and challenges throughout the pilot through fortnightly remote sessions with their Enabler. The programme will be structured with three physical group meet-ups in Inverness over the three months.

Donna Chisholm, HIE regional head of sectors, innovation and programmes said: “Our economy is built upon ambitious entrepreneurs and a virtual accelerator will unlock more of this potential.  

“We welcome the opportunity to work with Entrepreneurial Spark and our partners and contributors to help a new generation of entrepreneurs develop the skills and confidence to grow their businesses and create employment opportunities across the Highlands and Islands.”

Lucy-Rose Walker, (pictured) chief executive at Entrepreneurial Spark, said: “We’ve scaled our people accelerator model, which focusses on developing a go-do mindset, across the UK with some really humbling results and success.

“Our aim, however, is to give everyone the chance to grow and scale, wherever they are, so this pilot virtual model is the means to do just that.”

Ross McEwan, chief executive of the Royal Bank of Scotland, which is a partner with  Entrepreneurial Spark, said: “Scotland is well known for its entrepreneurial spirit. This virtual hatchery means that even more start-ups will have access to the specialist knowledge they need to be successful no matter where they’re based.”

Paula Skinner, a partner at Harper Macleod, said: “We are delighted to be backing this venture.”

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