Regional startups thrive through Barclays Eagle Labs

Jamie Grant, Stephen Coleman, Stuart Brown,
A Barclays Eagle Lab has been run from Codebase in Edinburgh

More technology start-ups based outside London and founded by women or ethnic minority entrepreneurs are getting support through a government-backed initiative.

A £12m “digital growth grant” was switched from Tech Nation to Barclays Eagle Labs, which says that in its first year 74% of the 1,681 tech start-ups taking part were not London based, while about 65% were set up by women or ethnic minority entrepreneurs.

In its final year of operation, Tech Nation said 58% of the companies it worked with had HQs, while 28% were founded by women.

However, Barclays fell short of the agreed target of backing 80% of companies outside of London.

Amanda Allan, director of Barclays Eagle Labs, highlighted the programme’s emphasis on regional engagement as a key differentiator.

“One of the differences between what we are doing and what Tech Nation did previously is this activity outside of London,” she said. “We know that national programmes can’t touch all the communities that need help, so we have set up our ecosystem partnership programme [to do that].”

Barclays Eagle Labs work with local delivery partners to provide advice on investment readiness to programmes on climate tech, AI and creativity. It has existed since 2015 and runs 37 locations around the country.

The local partners receive match funding from the government’s digital growth grant for every £1 of funding they secured themselves to deliver the schemes.

Ms Allan said Barclays Eagle Labs had added a 13th company growth programme, one more than promised, though an online academy has taken longer than envisaged to get off the ground.

Government funding to support delivery comes from the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology with Barclays covering the overhead costs of running the initiative. There were questions about giving public money to a multinational bank, which had a commercial interest in supporting its own customers, though Barclays says participants do not have to bank with it.

Ms Allan said: “We have a two-year contract. We don’t know what is going to happen beyond that. There is going to be a general election and we expect there will be new people to speak to about how they want to deliver growth for the tech ecosystem.

“But we know that the tech ecosystem is hugely important to economic growth and we would be willing to work with anybody.”

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