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Scotland's next generation entrepreneurs unlock their ambition

Twenty entrepreneurs with early-stage companies are celebrating their successes following a year-long programme of funding, training, mentorship and academic support from the Royal Society of Edinburgh's (RSE) Unlocking Ambition Enterprise Fellowship (UA EF) scheme funded by the Scottish Government.

Selected in June 2018 after a competitive process, the UA Enterprise Fellows received a £25,000-50,000 maintenance grant plus £20,000 to work full-time on developing and scaling their business idea and to unlock their ambition. They had visiting status at a Scottish university or research institute, tailored business training, and a dedicated mentor from the world of business.

The results are impressive: between them, in the first year alone, they have employed over 50 people; appointed 37 new board members; secured over 2,700 customers, contracts and users; negotiated 16 investment deals; and won 19 award nominations.

They have also realised important business milestones, including spin-out company formation, market research to inform product development, establishment of scalable business models, development of prototypes to viable product launch, and identification of new commercial markets.

The budding companies include an insect breeding company creating high-performance genetics for the insects-as-feed industry; a social enterprise that gifts bespoke clothing parcels to women in clothing crisis; and a company that has created a digital companion to support carers of people living with dementia.

As Scotland’s national academy, the RSE encourages enterprise, innovation and the commercialisation of technology-based ideas developed from academic research. Under the Unlocking Ambition initiative, the RSE’s programme has been designed specifically to support the development of new, innovative high-growth businesses based in Scotland.

Professor Dame Anne Glover, RSE President said: “Scotland has a global reputation for innovation, and we need to maintain that entrepreneurial spirit. It’s vital that we have a sustainable approach to supporting startups that create high-quality jobs, boost the Scottish economy and change lives through new ideas. 

“The RSE’s Unlocking Ambition Enterprise Fellowship was designed with those goals in mind and participants have grasped the opportunity, with some fantastic results after just 12 months. 

"Time, money, expert advice and guidance are key to turning a bright idea into a viable business with long-term potential and our programme has offered all of these to early-stage businesses with masses of potential. These companies are the employers of tomorrow, innovating for the future, and we have helped them to take huge strides forward in their growth journey towards being Scotland’s business success stories.”

Thomas Farrugia, founder and director at Beta Bugs Ltd is one of the 20 entrepreneurs. Beta Bugs is an insect-breeding company, creating genetics for the rapidly emerging ‘insects-as-feed’ industry. He said: “None of our achievements or plans we now have would have been possible without the support provided by this Fellowship. It has truly been game-changing. The training and mentoring has challenged and changed my mindset, whilst teaching me about the realities of business. It has opened doors to Scotland’s animal bioscience, agritech and aquaculture sectors, creating crucial opportunities for growth, and has provided the funds to build the business and ready it for the next phase of development.”

The RSE Enterprise Fellowship is part of the Unlocking Ambition Challenge, announced by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in November 2017. All 20 entrepreneurs will meet the First Minister at an evening reception on Wednesday 26 June to share their achievements.

Neina Sheldon
Article by Neina Sheldon
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