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Programmes | 08/09/2020

Co-Founders Programme Strengthens North West Innovation Sector

Five teams secure £10,000 Innovate UK funding as proof of concept grants

Catalyst has successfully completed its first North West Co-Founders programme, supporting a new generation of first-time entrepreneurs and early stage start-ups from the region with five teams receiving £10,000 of Innovate UK funding, the government’s innovation agency.

The funding will provide an opportunity for the winning teams to pursue their ideas and contribute to the thriving innovation ecosystem growing in the North West region.

Although based at Catalyst Innovation Centre at Fort George in Derry, the Co-Founders cohort completed a part-time online programme one night a week for 16 weeks. The programme helps people develop new product ideas focused on technology, engineering and science.

The five ideas which have secured funding include technology for medical student training, an innovative development for road’s cat’s eyes, a digital platform for golf caddies, a social fintech solution and a digital platform for exercise and wellbeing.

The programme brought together a diverse group of aspiring entrepreneurs from a broad range of fields including doctors, researchers, PhD students, undergraduates, scientists, designers, data scientists, engineers, technologists and those from a commercial background.

Lorraine Acheson, Innovate UK lead in Northern Ireland commented “Innovate UK has been delighted to work with Catalyst and support the Co-founders Programme in the North West. Stimulating innovation in every part of the UK is at heart of what we do and it’s been great to see such wide-ranging and exciting ideas being developed by the North West Co-founder teams”.

Since launching in Belfast in 2017, Co-Founders has delivered four cohorts involving 170 people who formed more than 50 teams – over 20 of whom are still working together.

Elaine Smyth from Catalyst added: ‘The quality of both the teams formed and the ideas generated from the entrepreneurial talent in the North West has been incredible.  The Co-Founders programme provides the unique opportunity for individuals who have dreamed of being entrepreneurs to have a go.  It has been a privilege for Catalyst, with the support of Innovate UK, to deliver the programme in the NW and to contribute to the growth of innovation startups with the potential to grow and scale their businesses’.

Catalyst, the Innovation Centre at Fort George opened in 2014 and is fully occupied by 32 companies and 250 people working in the innovation and knowledge economy ecosystem.

The Co-Founders programme is currently open for applications for its Autumn cohort and you can find out more at www.co-founders.co