The road to the Digital Growth Grant

GUEST POST: In this contributed blog post, Hannah Bernard, Head of Business Banking, Barclays, explains how the firm’s entrepreneurs’ network, Eagle Labs, plans to use the Digital Growth Grant to support the UK’s tech startup ecosystem.

In January, we shared the news of our Digital Growth Grant win, which allocates £12.09 million of government funding over two years, in support of start-up and scale-up businesses across the UK.

Naturally, the news received mixed opinions and we share in our disappointment at the closure of Tech Nation – an early stalwart of the UK technology scene. Formed in 2015, Eagle Labs – our entrepreneurs’ network, is well placed to support the tech ecosystem across the UK. With a national network of 38 physical labs and incubator programmes, we have supported some of the brightest start-ups and scale-ups UK wide, providing the tools, knowledge and connections to businesses and investors to accelerate growth. To date, the labs have supported more than 9,600 businesses, £2.28bn has been raised by funding member alumni and, last year alone, we hosted events for over 26,000 entrepreneurs. We’re proud of what we’ve achieved but there’s so much more we can do.

We believe we have a purposeful and beneficial role to play in the tech community. This grant will help us move the dial even further for the start-ups and scale-ups we support. For the long-term, our aim is for all the programmes to be able to operate independently of government funding, an important part of our bid. We are keen to share openly what we plan to deliver, as we launch a series of new programmes in April 2023. We are also confident that, in everything we set out to achieve, we will ensure excellent value for money for taxpayers, with 100% pass through of grant funds to support the tech ecosystem through programme delivery partners.

Over the next two years the Digital Growth Grant will support:

  • A new accelerator programme, complementary to Eagle Labs’ existing Black Founder Accelerator, targeting black-founded tech businesses who are at, or are about to enter, their scale-up stage. Overall, we commit to at least 35% of supported founders coming from diverse backgrounds in terms of gender, sexuality and ethnicity.
  • The launch of a new Scale-up programme, where technology scale-ups will spend 14-weeks diagnosing their specific challenges and access tailored coaching.
  • A new ecosystem partnership programme will demonstrate our commitment to a strong regional focus. This programme will specifically allow ecosystems outside of London to access additional funding to take advantage of local ecosystem conditions and/or mitigate local challenges.
  • The next generation of entrepreneurs is also critical to what we see as a successful programme at Barclays. The grant will support training resources and opportunities to inspire young entrepreneurs, including virtual training to over 10,000 businesses and young people.
  • Delivering on our existing commitments and more – we want to support a further 2,000 businesses directly through our own existing growth programmes which include Funding Readiness, Female Founder Accelerator and Global Connect.

This gives a flavour of some of the new and extended programmes we will be running; all Digital Growth Grant activity will be in addition to existing Barclays Eagle Labs investment and business support. And, as has been true since 2015, Eagle Labs is open to all – there is no prerequisite to bank with us or have an existing relationship.

Ultimately, we hope to harness our unique position as a national and well-connected convenor in an already established ecosystem. For the benefit of the next generation of business leaders, we aim to support the growth of start-ups and scale-ups by leveraging the depth and breadth of our wider banking connections. By supporting our communities and enabling people to develop the skills and confidence they need to succeed, we are helping all businesses to grow and to create further job opportunities for our local communities, and we are enormously motivated by that.

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