A Leeds City Council funding scheme is set to open the door to a bright business future for a new generation of innovators and entrepreneurs.
The council launched its Innovation@Leeds scheme earlier this year when it invited grant applications from organisations that provide training, mentoring and other forms of support for people aiming to develop their own innovation-led businesses.
Now nine successful bidders have been announced, with grants ranging from £5,000 to £25,000 being awarded following a competitive process to Open Innovations, FinTech North, Paceline, Yorkshire & Humber Academic Health Science Network (AHSN), Whitecap Consulting, AI Tech North, The Grad Soc, No Code Lab and Nexus in collaboration with NorthInvest.
The grants will be used to fund conferences, workshops and peer support groups for a diverse set of innovators from across the city, giving them access to the latest information on technology trends as well as opportunities to build valuable business connections.
This mix of knowledge sharing, networking and enterprise-friendly activity will, it is hoped, provide a launchpad for aspiring entrepreneurs with ideas that can help tackle problems such as climate change and poverty, while also driving Leeds’s recovery from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The scheme underlines the council’s long-standing commitment to the city’s innovation ecosystem and its role in ensuring that people from different backgrounds have the means to make the most of their talents in fields such as digital and other emerging technologies.
The work funded by the grants should also prove timely for start-ups that, for a variety of reasons, came into existence during the pandemic and are looking for guidance and advice as they find their feet in a much-changed business world.
Councillor Jonathan Pryor, Leeds City Council’s executive member for economy, culture and education said:
“Leeds is a city brimming with talent, and we want to do everything we can to help people put that creativity, spark and passion to use in ways that benefit both them and the local economy.
“These Innovation@Leeds grants will play a part in that important process by supporting some of the many local organisations that provide the training and mentoring needed to make ideas become a reality.
“We already have a fast-growing digital sector and plenty of fantastic, forward-thinking companies. Innovation@Leeds should now help shape a new generation of entrepreneurs who will write the next chapter in the city’s burgeoning tech success story.”
The grants have been funded by the council’s Additional Restrictions Grant (ARG) budget in recognition of the challenges created by the pandemic and the need to drive economic recovery.
One of the initiatives being funded by the council’s scheme is Grow@Leeds, a programme designed to guide a diverse group of ten founders with global ambitions through a six-month schedule of workshops and one-to-one support. Grow@Leeds, which will help to scale businesses, aid international expansion and increase sales, is being delivered by NorthInvest, a not-for-profit investment organisation specialising in tech and digital start-ups, and Nexus, a vibrant community for entrepreneurs and innovators located on the University of Leeds campus.
One of the other grants will be used to support Propel@YH, a Yorkshire & Humber AHSN programme that helps small and medium enterprises develop digital health tech innovations. The Yorkshire & Humber AHSN is one of 15 AHSNs across England that operate as the key innovation arm of the NHS and are focused on transforming lives by driving the spread and adoption of health innovation.
A third initiative will see FinTech North, a community facilitator and ideas-sharing platform for fintech (or financial technology), hosting a series of events in Leeds, such as a conference where topics will include equality, diversity and inclusivity together with green finance and investment. The objectives of the programme include supporting under-represented founders and championing Leeds as a centre of fintech excellence.