Scotland’s economic recovery will be entrepreneur led as Sir Tom Hunter hails Edge success

Scotland’s economic recovery will be entrepreneur led, Sir Tom Hunter has insisted, after he hailed a record number of applications for the Scottish Edge funding programme.

Applications to the latest round are up by 24 per cent, with the record 305 applications for the 17th round of Edge pointing to a high level of business activity on Scotland’s start-up scene. Female co-founders represented 57 per cent of applications for the current round.

Since its launch in 2013, Scottish Edge has awarded in excess of £16 million in grants and loans while supporting more than 400 companies.

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The social enterprise is supported by the Hunter Foundation, Royal Bank of Scotland, the Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise. In addition to direct cash funding, Edge winners benefit from training and support from a number of partner organisations.

Left to right: Hannah Fisher of Start-up Drinks Lab, Arti Poddar and Usman Mohammed of Guy & Beard, Evelyn McDonald of Scottish Edge, and Scott McCulloch of TheVeganKind. Picture: Stewart Attwood

This round’s application drive came after a Hunter-funded independent analysis of Scottish Edge’s past winners by economic research group Ekos found that Edge-supported businesses have helped generate more than 850 jobs and a gross value added (GVA) of £67.9m. The funding competition also generates a return for the public sector of £7.30 to £8.50 in net additional GVA for every £1 of public sector investment.

The report also suggests a strong survival rate for Edge-winning businesses, with 100 per cent still trading one year after an award, 85 per cent after three years and 77 per cent after five years.

In eight years of operation and over £16m in grants and loans having been awarded, the report found that there had been a default rate of just 6.2 per cent.

Hunter said: “Early stage, high growth businesses will play a vital role in rebuilding our economy and driving employment opportunities. The businesses that come through Edge grow faster with less risk because Edge is not just about money, but the embedded support on offer and I’m delighted the findings of the Ekos report reflect this.”

He added: “Scotland’s economic recovery will be entrepreneur led and SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises] are fundamental to our chances of succeeding. As such I think business and government must come together to extend and accelerate support for them through the likes of Scottish Edge.”

Evelyn McDonald, chief executive at Scottish Edge, said: “We’re encouraged to see so many applications, particularly after such a challenging time for the business ecosystem in Scotland.

“With almost half of this round’s applications coming from pre-trading business, we’re seeing that familiar trend of innovation born amidst crisis.

“Job losses and lack of employment have encouraged many to make the entrepreneurial leap, including a disproportionate amount of women, and what we’re also seeing across the applications are companies positioned to address many of the issues that have been thrown up by the pandemic.”

Scott McCulloch, chief executive and co-founder of TheVeganKind, said: “Our own business grew by around 125 per cent during 2020, on the back of record orders and half a million monthly visits to our website. When we won Scottish Edge, we were just getting started and there is no doubt the money we won was the catalyst for greater things.”

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