ESpark hatches further plan to boost start-ups

Ann Gloag will be �entrepreneur in residence at the new 'hatchery'. Picture: Jane Barlow
Ann Gloag will be �entrepreneur in residence at the new 'hatchery'. Picture: Jane Barlow
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AN INCUBATOR scheme for entrepreneurs backed by some of Scotland’s top ­tycoons is to open a centre in Edinburgh in partnership with Napier University and the city council.

Stagecoach co-founder Ann Gloag has agreed to be the ­entrepreneur in residence at what will be the third “hatchery” launched by Entrepreneurial Spark. The site will be announced on 10 December.

Fifty start-up businesses in the east of Scotland will be ­invited to take part in ­ESpark’s innovative programme, which already has the support of Sir Tom Hunter at its centre in Ayrshire and Willie Haughey in Glasgow.

The Royal Bank of Scotland is providing £375,000 over three years to support the initiative, which launched in January.

Each of the so-called ­“chicklets” companies receives mentoring and guidance from RBS business and relationship managers on skills such as networking, crafting business plans and developing pitch ideas.

Jim Duffy, co-founder of ESpark, said the project had already supported a number of sustainable businesses, ­including food firm Eat Balanced and toddler products shopping website StorkUp.

All the space, infrastructure and equipment is provided for free by supporters and those taking part are put through a rigorous series of tests and exercises.

“We want to know that they have what it takes to be an entrepreneur,” said Duffy. “Can they collaborate? Do they have the right work ­ethic? We make them investable by working on their mindset and how they behave.”

Gordon Merrylees, managing director of RBS Business Banking in Scotland, said the new centre was “a fantastic opportunity for Edinburgh-based entrepreneurs”.

It will open on 4 February with the infrastructure provided by Napier. The university has a track record of ­supporting entrepreneurs from its alumni, helping more than 200 businesses since 2003 through its Moffat Centre and launching Bright Red Ventures, an incubator space for computing and creative industries students.

Napier principal Professor Dame Joan Stringer said: “Encouraging and helping our students to be more ­confident, creative and entrepreneurial is at the heart of what we do, which is why we are so pleased to be able to support Entrepreneurial Spark in Edinburgh.

“Their ethos is a very good fit with our own and I believe the partnership will provide a number of opportunities for both organisations.”

Edinburgh City Council is investing a six-figure sum to meet the set-up and running costs of the centre.

Councillor Frank Ross, convener of the economy committee, said: “It is vital that we nurture today’s entrepreneurs to ensure we create new businesses.”

Gloag, who is a Napier honorary graduate, said: “For our economy to prosper, it is important that the private, public and third sectors work in unison, and the new hatchery is an excellent example of that in action.

“It is exactly the sort of initiative that I’m proud to be able to support.”

ESpark’s existing two centres in Glasgow and Ayrshire, opened in October 2011 and March respectively, and have supported more than 140 start-ups.

Twitter: @TerryMurden1