Attracting SMEs to the UK

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Bringing leading young businesses to the UK The UK’s attractive Sirius Programme has a new format and a new (private sector) management 

The Sirius programme aims to bring some of the best young entrepreneurial talent from around the world to the UK where they can build their businesses for the benefit of themselves and the UK economy. Participants receive a complete package of services to maximize their potential for success – probably better than any UK young business could expect.

The package includes seed funding of approximately £35,000 plus 30-days of acceleration training, mentoring, twelve-months office accommodation and support in obtaining visas from a dedicated Sirius allocation. The total package is estimated to be worth up to £60,000. Companies participating will cede a 10% stake in exchange for the support received.

Sirius was developed originally by the then UK Trade and Industry (UKTI) in 2013 to promote the UK as a destination for young entrepreneurs, and to date has attracted over 2,300 gifted and ambitious applicants from 93 countries, leading to 73 companies coming to the UK. The programme aims in the future to attract up to 100 entrepreneurs representing 40 new companies to the UK each year; and these will be spread across different regions of the UK.

Management of the Sirius Programme has been transferred to a consortium of private and charity sector organisations to facilitate its growth and development. The consortium includes The Accelerator Network, Entrepreneurial Spark, NACUE, Natwest (part of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group), The Rain Gods and White Horse Capital.

The support programme is to be run on a not-for-profit basis and seed funding for the start-ups will be sourced from UK private investors under the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS), with the expectation of a strong investment return given the calibre of international start-ups and the support they will be able to access in the UK, now including investor input.

Timothy Barnes, Chairman, Sirius New Direction Ltd commented (3 Nov), “The development and growth of the Sirius Programme underlines our confidence in the reputation of the UK as a leading global destination for young entrepreneurs. There are some incredibly ambitious entrepreneurs with great business ideas that would benefit from being based here and we are keen to hear from them all!”

He added: ‘It is a highly competitive programme, but with much of the previous marketing conducted outside of the UK it is not as well known within the country as it might be. Teams from anywhere in the world can apply, as long as one or more of the co-founders is from outside of the UK. Overseas students already in the UK as part of their education are particularly welcome.’

Applications for the new format programme are open now via http://www.siriusprogramme.com – the first cohort to be selected before the end of the year, to be active in the Spring of 2017.

John Whatmore, November 2016

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A support programme for hi-growth young ventures

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A Growth Builder programme for hi-growth ventures

At last programmes are being initiated, based on the elements of the Accelerator but provided on a periodic basis, that fill a gap in aiming to help hi-growth businesses to grow faster. Every incubator should follow suit.

Sherry Coutu CBE, serial entrepreneur and investor, identified in her report of 2014 a need to support rapidly expanding ‘scale-up’ companies to create a significant proportion of the UK’s economic growth; RBS analysis suggested an additional 238,000 jobs and £38 billion additional turnover is possible if the ‘scale up gap’ is reversed; and the 2016 Barclays Report puts its finger on specific needs concerning management and finance.

The Growth Builder programme is one of several recent responses to her call for Government, entrepreneurs, educators, investors and large corporates to work together to support these businesses, and it has been built specifically to help established British businesses that want to take on the next stage of growth.

The first cohort consists of businesses from a range of sectors, carefully picked based on existing proven successes and their potential for further growth – by a panel of esteemed industry experts. The 48 businesses will enjoy access to Government, university innovation, corporate expertise, investors and successful entrepreneurs, including programme ambassadors like Brent Hoberman (lastminute.com, made.com, Founders Forum and Founders Factory), Sherry Coutu CBE (Founders4Schools), Sarah Wood (Unruly) and Ed Wray (Betfair), among others.

The programme which has been designed by UCL, Natwest, UKTI, BT, PIE Mapping, Fast Growth Forum, the UK Business Angels Association and Loughborough University, consists of 12 monthly meetings, starting with a day focused on getting to know one another and formal assessment of where each business is and where it hopes to go, based on the Business Model Canvas. The second meeting – a half-day meeting, will see the participants working in small groups, based on such things as size, sector, technology etc; at which the members of each group will present their progress together with their problems, to which group members will contribute their thoughts, their own experience and their ideas. Some mentoring is provided by ‘growth tutors’. Future meetings are expected to alternate between these two models – the provision of input and small group working. Meetings rotate around the premises of the various contributors.

This format brings together the best of a number of existing programmes, all of them evidently highly valued, and adds the intimate involvement of a wide variety of different contributors – provided pro bono. Every incubator can put together a programme with this objective (and every Science Park, Innovation Centre and Tech Hub too.)

John Whatmore, June 2016