ONE of Scotland’s leading business incubator and accelerator programmes, Entrepreneurial Spark (ESpark), has seen its influence cross borders this past week, as Liverpool Chamber of Commerce launched its own accelerator initiative, Spark Up.
Chaired by Chamber of Commerce chief executive, Jenny Stewart, and run by Liverpool business stalwart, Dr Nick Owen MBE, Spark Up aims to create 500 ‘super businesses’ in Merseyside over the next five years.
The Chamber has teamed up with NatWest to launch a pilot in the city, with additional support from the University of Liverpool, The BIG Partnership, Glow New Media and Aspire Creative Enterprises.
As well as modelling itself on the MassChallenge project in the US city of Boston, Spark Up has taken a sizeable cue from ESpark, with the Scottish programme’s team playing a key role in the Liverpool project’s journey from concept to reality.
Begins a spokesperson: “Established in 2011, ESpark was the first UK business accelerator to adapt the MassChallenge model for use in the British market and the Spark Up team was keen to utilise the expertise and experience of its Scottish counterpart.”
Jim Duffy, ESpark founder, said: “I remember Jenny’s enthusiasm when we first met and I was delighted to see another person committed to kick-starting an entrepreneurial revolution.
“Spark Up is in its early days which is an unbelievably exciting time. The team has done an excellent job in securing support from both the private and public sectors and I look forward to seeing its programme develop.
“I’m just glad we were able to play a part in bringing it to fruition and it shows what can be achieved with a collaborative approach.
“Scotland’s entrepreneurial character is world-renowned and the launch of Spark Up demonstrates its ability to inspire and influence business practice in other parts of the UK as well.”
Avid ESpark supporter, Sir Tom Hunter, added: “ESpark is driving real change in entrepreneurial Scotland and its impact is now rolling well beyond our borders. The forthcoming impact report on E-Spark in Scotland will demonstrate just why others are choosing to copy the model; the more the merrier in my view.”
Jenny Stewart, chief executive of Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, founder and chair of Spark Up, said: “I knew I wanted to create a start-up accelerator in Liverpool, the trouble was in knowing where to begin.
“I was introduced to the team at ESpark by The BIG Partnership, which had just opened its Liverpool office, and was completely blown away by the set up in Scotland.
“The energy, the drive, the collaboration, and the focus – it was exhilarating and exactly what I wanted to achieve in Liverpool. I returned home completely invigorated and within a matter of days we had a structure in place to create Spark Up.
“The support we’ve had from the ESpark team has been exceptional and is one of the main factors behind Liverpool becoming the first city to launch an accelerator of this kind in England.”
Dr Nick Owen MBE, programme director of Spark Up, said: “The fantastic thing about the Scottish accelerator is its collaborative ethos.
“All too often, business networks become counterproductive because they refuse to work together, restricting the avenues of support available to the start-ups they are working with and ultimately constricting their chance of survival.
“Through ESpark, Scotland’s business community has learned to work together and now has an exemplar start-up ecosystem. The rest of the UK would do well to sit up and take note.”
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