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North-east entrepreneurs to get a lift with Elevator

Gary McEwan
Gary McEwan

The body which runs the Business Gateway for the north-east and Tayside has launched a £1million state-of-the art hub to jump start entrepreneurship in the region.

The Enterprise North East Trust (Enet) has launched a business “accelerator” at the Bridge of Don, which is set to welcome its first tranche of start up businesses in February.

The firm, which is one of Scotland’s largest business support companies, has also rebranded as Elevator.

The facility, designed by cutting-edge Glasgow architects Graven Images, offers what is believed to be the fastest broadband facilities in the region, sleekly designed seminar rooms and meeting places, as well as the latest in interactive videoconferencing and whiteboard technology.

The Centre for Entrepreneurship is the brainchild of Professor of Entrepreneurship, Gary McEwan, the chief executive of Elevator.

A year ago, he returned from the US inspired to replicate the support offered to entrepreneurs through world-class facilities including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Boston’s Babson College of Entrepreneurship and Activa in Barcelona.

He said: “It’s been estimated that if the UK was as entrepreneurial as the United States it would have nearly a million more firms and we need to begin to realise the potential in our entrepreneurs and give them the support they need to grow and develop our economy.

“All successful cities have a beacon of entrepreneurship at their centre. Previously, there was no such beacon in Aberdeen City or Shire. We have now created a nucleus with the Centre of Entrepreneurship to develop an entrepreneurial eco system that will thrive in the future.

“We want to attract the best talent from across the globe to Aberdeen, and Elevator will offer them the best working environment and expertise to start their entrepreneurial journey.”

Use of the facilities will be free to users, who will get into Elevator’s rigorous 20-week business development programme with business mentors which will start with basics and end up with an established firm. Its ongoing costs – including a £50,000-a-year broadband bill – will be funded through Elevator’s profitable business support activities.

“At the end of the programme, funders should be lined up waiting for you,” added Mr McEwan.

The space is aimed at people starting up businesses in energy, technology and engineering. Once the centre becomes fully operational, Mr McEwan expects energy to be a main specialism, making the Elevator accelerator the only such facility in Europe.

The new centre has been unveiled at The Hub in the city’s Energy Park at the Bridge of Don.

Elevator initially planned a more modest facility until Aberdeen City Council helped the firm win a £670,000 capital grant from the Government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) as part of the “super connected cities” initiative.

Mr McEwan believes the arrival of the new centre comes at a critical time for Aberdeen and shire as it faces intense volatility in the oil and gas industry.

He said: “As challenges in employment arise in the energy sector it is more important than ever that we work to create and develop top-class emerging entrepreneurs as they are the people who will go on to build companies of scale, creating employment and contributing to the growth of our local and national economies in the future.”

Elevator’s Centre for Entrepreneurship is also connected to 55 similar programmes around the world, allowing north-east entrepreneurs to participate in events and access help and advice on a worldwide scale.

“You can’t teach entrepreneurial gut skill, but you can teach them to grow a business – and that is what the accelerator is all about.”

He added: “What we are trying to do is create an eco-system in Aberdeen that supports entrepreneurship. The expertise and mentoring will need to come from industry.

“So we have a job to persuade industry to participate in this. I can see real upsides for companies to be involved in this.”

The centre will be the new home for employability programmes, community driven projects, and a space were school, college and university students can learn about enterprise and entrepreneurship.

“We want school kids who come here to think that entrepreneurship is cool,” Mr McEwan added.

Elevator will also continue to deliver Business Gateway programmes for Grampian and Tayside, helping 2,500 potential new starts a year launch a business.

Entrepreneurs and businesses are being urged to apply for selection as soon as possible.