The bank’s enterprise programme is open to applications from all UK small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), with businesses joining the scheme in June.
Climate focused entrepreneurs are being targeted ahead of November’s expected COP-26 conference in Glasgow.
Throughout its network of accelerator hubs across the UK, the bank aims to support some 1,400 businesses at different stages of growth through the programme, with a particular focus on scale-ups – defined by the bank as businesses that grow their turnover or employment by more than a fifth each year.
The programme’s relaunch follows recent findings from the bank’s report into SME recovery in the UK, which found that transforming a greater proportion of those businesses into scale-ups, and driving a shift towards sustainability, were two priorities which could help unlock £140 billion of economic growth by the end of the decade.
Andrew Harrison, head of business banking and entrepreneurship at NatWest, said: “The findings of our recent ‘springboard to recovery’ report showed that scale-ups will be crucial to UK economic recovery post Covid-19.
“Scale-ups are 50 per cent more productive than other SMEs, but at present only 2.5 per cent of all businesses fall into the scale-up category. That’s why we’re relaunching our enterprise programme to help more SMEs reach this next level of growth and productivity.”
He added: “Combined with increased representation and support for female and BAME-led [black, Asian and minority ethnic] businesses throughout our new cohort – which we aim to ensure are at least 60 per cent and 20 per cent respectively – and a focus on businesses with sustainability and purpose at their core, we’re excited to be opening our doors again to support the next generation of business success stories.”
The bank said it had also created 50 roles based around the UK to ensure these businesses are given appropriate, tailored support.
The new local enterprise managers, regional ecosystem managers and entrepreneur acceleration managers will provide businesses with guidance relevant to their location and sector.
Royal Bank of Scotland accelerator hubs are based in Edinburgh and Glasgow, NatWest hubs are located in Bristol, London, Milton Keynes, Leeds, Newcastle, Manchester, Cardiff and Birmingham, while an Ulster Bank accelerator hub is based in Belfast.
As well as the accelerator programme, as part of its wider enterprise programme the bank offers its “business builder” programme – a digital qualification offered to early stage start-ups – and Dream Bigger, which is an education programme aimed at 16-18 year olds, encouraging them to consider entrepreneurship as a career choice.
NatWest said it was committing to supporting 35,000 entrepreneurs through its enterprise programmes in 2021, and a further 200,000 “interventions” with future entrepreneurs through mentoring, webinars and coaching. To date, the group’s initiatives are said to have created nearly 1,300 jobs and contributed in excess of £103 million to the UK economy – with nearly half of all businesses supported since launch female led.