Incubator sparks growth as 1,000 new jobs created

Business incubator programme Entrepreneurial Spark (ESpark) said today that the start-ups it houses have created more than 1,000 jobs as it smashed its previous records for employment, investment and turnover.
ESpark chief executive Jim Duffy preparing to expand into England. Picture: Neil HannaESpark chief executive Jim Duffy preparing to expand into England. Picture: Neil Hanna
ESpark chief executive Jim Duffy preparing to expand into England. Picture: Neil Hanna

The group, which now claims to be the world’s largest free business accelerator, saw survival rates among start-ups hit a “remarkable” 86 per cent last year and is now preparing to expand south of the Border.

Publishing its annual impact study, ESpark’s chief executive Jim Duffy said: “2014 saw a step change in our expediential growth as RBS agreed an exciting partnership to take the best practice from Scotland to the rest of the UK, and these Scotland numbers show the sheer potential that Entrepreneurial Spark has to engage, excite and, most importantly, accelerate budding entrepreneurs across the country.

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“With our new accelerator hub launching in Birmingham in February, we can’t wait to take our model south in our next step of driving an entrepreneurial revolution across the UK.”

Backed by some of Scotland’s top business figures, including Lord Haughey, Sir Tom Hunter and Ann Gloag, ESpark was founded in 2011 and became the first UK business accelerator to adapt the US-based MassChallenge project model for use in the British market.

New businesses are “hot housed” for five months in one of three “hatcheries” in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Ayrshire where they receive free office space, business mentoring and advice.

More than 1,000 jobs have now been created by firms through its support, almost double the 520 created in the first two years of the business incubator’s existence.

The total turnover among firms supported by ESpark surged to more than £41 million at the end of 2014, almost trebling the £15.7m achieved during 2012 and 2013 combined. Investment secured by supported start-ups shot up by £10m, from a total of just over £8m at the end of 2013 to more than £18m at the close of 2014.

Entrepreneurial Spark has now supported 350 firms, an increase on the 280 under its wing at the end of 2013. Showcasing the innovative talents of many of those firms, more than 386 patents have now been awarded to ESpark start-ups.

Gordon Merrylees, head of entrepreneurship at RBS, said: “Our new partnership will create Entrepreneurial Spark hubs in major cities across the country from Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds and Manchester to Cardiff and Belfast. Work is now underway in earnest to get them ready for launch.”

Edinburgh has been listed among the UK’s top ten hot-spots for start-up businesses. The capital claimed tenth spot with 7,480 new firms launched in 2014, ahead of Leeds and Liverpool.