Boost for County Durham entrepreneurs

Business Durham is set to help a further five entrepreneurs launch their businesses with its successful six-month accelerator programme.

Durham City Incubator (DCI) is designed to help new County Durham companies flourish and has so far supported 22 entrepreneurs, in the past three cohorts, to launch their businesses and achieve national recognition and investment funding.

DCI was set up in 2018 as a joint venture between Durham University, New College Durham and Business Durham, as part of a wider drive to grow the Durham City economy.  The programme offers Durham University graduates, New College Durham students as well as local entrepreneurs high quality facilities and business support to launch start-ups with high growth potential.

It has successfully run three programmes and is now working with five exciting new businesses on its fourth cohort covering a wide range of sectors including food technology, events management, education, and rural business.

Each business will benefit from a £2,500 grant as well as six months of intensive support to ensure they are ready for the next stage of growth, with training and advice ranging from financing and marketing to legal issues, business strategy and much more.

The six-month programme is usually delivered through boot camps, one-to-one support, mentoring sessions, workshops, seminars, and networking events. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic the current programme will be delivered digitally.

The five Durham based companies included in the latest cohort are: Learneast Language, a Chinese learning app to help users practice and improve Chinese language and cultural learning; an online events management platform, Eventurstar, an event planning and event supplier tool to assist users at every stage of the planning process for any type of occasion; GRAPE Software, a software application that takes the hassle out of food safety inspections by digitising the inspection process for both food businesses and food inspectors; Rural Business Network, a membership organisation for new and growing rural businesses across the UK to gain knowledge, find resources and make connections; and EdTech’s self-learning platform, Education Equation, which uses data and AI to make high-quality education universally accessible and aims to improve customers’ grades.

Sarah Slaven, interim managing director at Business Durham, said: “We’re delighted to be working with a fourth cohort of ambitious new entrepreneurs. We’re really looking forward to working closely with our partners to help nurture and support the entrepreneurs as they grow and scale up their business in Durham.

“It is inspiring to see the Incubator continuing to attract innovative businesses that are choosing to start-up in Durham.  With our support these new companies can make a real impact on our local economy and inspire other future business leaders.  This is particularly important as the economy moves into the recovery phase as it is vital we continue to support businesses to grow, thrive and create jobs.”

In addition, each of the businesses on the programme has the option to access a £7,500 loan due to DCI’s partnership with Northstar Ventures. Funding has come from the North East Innovation Fund supported by the European Regional Development Fund and managed by Northstar Ventures.

Dr Tim Hammond, Director of Commercialisation and Economic Development at Durham University, said: “We are very much looking forward to welcoming the fourth cohort, which includes start-ups from Durham University graduates, and following their progress over the next six months.”

The first New College Durham graduate to benefit from the scheme was Jacob Ham who, thanks to the help and support offered by the DCI, was able to take his branding and design agency, Alderham Design Ltd, to the next level.

Jacob said: “Starting my own business was hard, but I’ve had the blessing of being involved with Durham City Incubator. The workshops, support and advice they provide have changed my business for the better.”

Jacob has recently volunteered to be a guest speaker for the DCI so he can share his experience and help inspire entrepreneurs participating in future cohorts.

Durham City Incubator is part of Durham Internships and Collaborative Enterprise (DICE), which is part funded by European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as part of the 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Fund Programme.

DCI runs in cohorts that each last six months. For more information on the Durham City Incubator and to apply for the next cohort, visit


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