Top FREE regional support for startups in the UK

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Second part of our guide to the top UK support initiatives for startups

“Levelling Up” is today associated with the present UK government. One of the highly-effective slogans that powered the Conservatives to victory at the last election (every marketing manager and startup founder’s dream). With strong regional support for tech startups and small businesses in general, levelling-up of sorts has been underway across the entire UK for a while.

London is still the biggest destination for investment dollars into startups in the UK by some distance. In the twelve months up to September 30, 2021, VCs had invested 11.3 billion pounds across nearly 1,350 Startups in London. This represents 73% of total VC investment across the UK by deal value.

VC Investment By Region: Last 12 Months to Sept 30, 2021; Source: Crunchbase

However, the other regions have grown and continue to grow much faster than London. Hubs such as Bristol, Birmingham, Cambridge and Manchester have invested time, effort and money into establishing themselves as destinations for founders planning to set up their startups.

Naturally the investment pounds have followed. East of England, the fastest growing region has grown almost 3x as fast as London — albeit from a low base.

Growth in VC Funding to the Regions between 2015 and Last 12 Months to Sept 30, 2021; Source: Crunchbase

For founders and potential founders across the UK, the mostly free initiatives  could be the difference between failure and success — if they know about the help available. Two weeks ago, we covered the Central Government support schemes such as EIS / SEIS, Technation, Innovate UK and Kickstart. This time around we travel around the country to explore the initiatives offered by governments, non-profits and universities in the top 3 fastest growing regions + London.

UK Regional Non-Profit and Government Initiatives

Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) are partnerships between local authorities and the private sector across the UK. The LEPs run 38 growth hubs providing support to over 4.7 million small businesses across the country. Launched in 2010, the Growth Hubs support small businesses with advice, loans, knowledge sharing and other initiatives. The LEP Network is a central source of information on all the LEPs. Read through to access the Growth Hub nearest to you.

East of England:
Nicknamed “Silicon Fen” and viewed as the UK’s Silicon Valley, the Cambridge tech hub is the key driver of the growth in investment into the region. The results may be obvious now but this is no overnight success story. The Cambridge Science Park was set up by Trinity College, University of Cambridge in 1970. Since then, it has supported the founding of growth of several startups, many of them now Unicorns. The Judge Business School runs several programs for students and other aspiring entrepreneurs in the region.

Unsurprisingly, as the Tech capital of the UK and one of the top tech hubs globally, London leads the way in support for entrepreneurship. There are several initiatives open to companies based in London. Some of these are:

  • Mayor’s International Business Programme (MIBP): this is a free 12-month accelerator for established startups looking to expand and win business internationally. The Programme offers support through mentorships, networking and trade missions to key locations globally. Full details on eligibility, benefits and how to apply can be found here.

  • Business Growth Programme (BGP): The second accelerator managed by London & Partners on behalf of the Mayor of London is for early-stage companies based in London and looking for support to grow. This program is also free but for 3-months, Startup founders can graduate from the BGP to the MIBP as they grow. Learn more here.

  • Upstream: a collaboration between Hammersmith & Fulham Borough and Imperial College, Upstream focuses on harnessing networks between startups, investors, government and other staekholders in the Borough in support of the science, tech and creative sectors.

South West
: Bristol and Bath are the powerhouses of the region. Bristol in particular is appealing to startups and big companies alike for offering eat-your-cake-and-have-it. It has the benefits of a large city like London while being significantly cheaper and offering a higher standard of living. There is also a high concentration of talent due to the presence of the University of Bristol and University of Bristol, both part of SETsquared, which supports students and other entrepreneurs in the area. Bristol City Council offers several resources to support small businesses while Invest in Bristol and Bath actively promotes investment and support for businesses across the South West region.

Wales: Cardiff has made a name for itself as a thriving tech hub particularly for fintech. The UK Treasury’s Fintech Strategic Review identified Wales (especially Cardiff & South Wales) as one of the top 10 high-growth fintech clusters across the country. For any fintech or other founder (considering) starting out, Fintech Wales’ Foundry runs a FREE incubator and accelerator every year. , The Development Bank of Wales offers small businesses loans and equity support from as low as £1,000 up to £10 million. Finally, Gino, TechNation’s dedicated Wales Manager is a great resource to follow for current news and resources relevant to startups in Wales

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