County Durham start-ups to benefit from accelerator programme

Eleven entrepreneurs are set for success by taking part in the six-month Durham City Incubator programme to develop their businesses.

The County Durham start-ups hope to follow in the footsteps of Plastech Innovation, Heartwood Skills CIC and ChatPro who have all successfully completed the accelerator programme over the last three years.

Durham City Incubator (DCI) was set up in 2018 as a joint venture between Durham University, New College Durham and Business Durham, to support ambitious businesses based in the county who have been trading for under 12 months achieve their goals, as well as to support local entrepreneurs launch start-ups with high growth potential.

It is designed to help new County Durham companies thrive and has so far supported 28 entrepreneurs, in the past four cohorts, to launch their businesses and achieve national recognition and investment funding.

The Durham City Incubator is now working with 11 exciting new businesses on its fifth cohort covering a wide range of sectors including app development, accountancy, technology, catering, art and culture, and social enterprise.

Eight businesses are taking part in the full DCI programme and three have signed up to DCI Lite, which offers access to the DCI workshops and one-to-one sessions.

Each business on the full programme will benefit from a £2,500 grant as well as six months of intensive support to ensure they are ready for the next stage of growth, with training and advice ranging from financing and marketing to legal issues and business strategy and much more.

The six-month programme is usually delivered through boot camps, one-to-one support, mentoring sessions, workshops, seminars, and networking events.  Due to the COVID-19 pandemic the current programme will be delivered digitally.

The eight Durham based companies on the fifth cohort’s full programme include: Pik Sustainable Solutions Ltd, a combined food waste management and diet tracking app; The Tax Faculty LLP which helps companies resolve HMRC enquiries and investigations, as well as providing bespoke tax computations and advisory work to SMEs; software development company Bionix Technologies who is developing an app to help consumers find vegan food locally; Digimonk which is developing intelligent software for food businesses such as foodbanks and care homes to manage their operations and to reduce cost; web-based business management software solution Soloist.life designed specifically for creative freelancers to manage their business; The Little LunchBox, a technology driven, food catering business which aims at helping busy parents with their children’s packed lunch; SoSoft, software as a service (SaaS), who specialises in online ordering systems for restaurants; and networking platform, Networking KnoWho, which helps connect people as well as teaching networking skills and creating networking strategies.

Social enterprises, Culture Healing Communities CIC and Postcards From Space along with caterers AJEB Investment Ltd are the three companies taking part in the DCI Lite programme. Culture Healing Communities CIC specialises in Community Heritage and Heritage at Risk, helping bring people together by creating community projects, and Postcards From Space helps children aged between 6-12, to learn about the Solar System with Junior astronaut Tanno, and their spacedog, Iguda in a series of 12 postcards.  AJEB Investment Ltd uses tropical foods ingredients to make delicious foods with distinctive flavours which will be launched soon.

Sarah Slaven, interim managing director at Business Durham, said: “It’s fantastic to be able to nurture and support these innovative entrepreneurs as they grow and scale up their companies in County Durham.   DCI continues to attract innovative businesses that are choosing to start-up in Durham and it is especially positive to see we’re retaining academic talent in the region.  With our support, the entrepreneurs can gain the skills they need to build a business with longevity and can help bring investment not just into the county, but as the region as a whole.”

Dr Tim Hammond, Director of Commercialisation and Economic Development at Durham University, said: “The Durham City Incubator provides a superb platform to support our enterprising graduates  to build their ideas and launch their businesses. I am really pleased to see that there are 5 graduate start-ups in this fifth cohort which means that 18 University associated start-ups have now accessed the DCI programme.”

Dawn Fairlamb, Vice Principal at New College Durham, said: “We’re delighted to once again support the Durham City Incubator. Creating new businesses is vital to the local economy and in the current climate these new entrepreneurs need the experience, support and guidance that the Incubator offers. We’re looking forward to seeing the new cohort’s business ideas and how these develop.”

The Incubator was developed as part of a wider drive to grow the Durham City economy and to offer Durham University graduates and New College Durham students high quality facilities and business support to grow their ventures in Durham City.

Durham City Incubator is part of Durham Internships and Collaborative Enterprise (DICE), which is part funded by European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Fund Programme.

DCI runs in cohorts that each last six months. For more information on the Durham City Incubator and to apply for the next cohort, visit dcincubator.co.uk

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