Accelerator participants

Accelerating innovation

By Jack Stott - 05 May 2021

More than 180 entrepreneurial teams sought access to this year’s Startup Accelerator, and its prized programme of mentorship, development and £10,000 seed funding.

Open to students, staff, alumni and NESCol learners, the bar for entry is set high. Ultimately, after eligibility screening, international judges, shortlisting and review, 21 teams made it into 2020’s cohort.

The teams will work with industry mentors, collaborate with other startups and use a range of tools to develop and stress test their ideas. This year’s cohort, however, had to overcome the additional hurdle that many startups are now facing: the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Accelerator, created to simulate economic development by injecting a diverse range of products and services into the region, is continuing with its existing schedule despite the additional challenges the coronavirus brings. Innovative ideas will still be grown into fully-founded businesses, but incubated in a more virtual setting.

Accelerator participants were already using Microsoft Teams for communications, files and video calling, making them well prepared to continue the programme – despite the call to isolation. Many face-to-face sessions were moved to Zoom video conferencing, and one-to-one mentor sessions have actually increased.

In place of a Founders’ Showcase to celebrate the end of the Accelerator, a new ‘Startup Sunday Live’ event will take place on 31 May 2020. Teams will submit video pitches, and the finalists will broadcast live on YouTube as part of the ‘TV show’ streamed on 31 May, along with highlights and commentary. Cash prizes will be awarded by a panel of judges, and the stream’s audience will also vote for additional winners.

This is the second year of the programme, and the teams represent a diverse spread of industries. From specialist protective clothing for musicians, to eco-friendly toothbrushes and inflatable waterwheels that produce clean, renewable and reliable electricity, the impact of these businesses will reach many people.

182 applications

21% increase in teams passed through phase 1 of the programme

11/11 of academic schools applied

62% successful applications with one or more female founders*

14 countries outside the UK represented in final teams*

57% of teams have at least one international founder*

*Figures from January’s Accelerator boot camp

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