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Hundreds of West Midlands entrepreneurs are set to benefit from a comprehensive support package, after a new £500k project was announced by government.

Birmingham City University has secured £531,627 from Research England’s Development Fund to kick-start its STEAMincubator pilot programme, which will see new spaces, facilities and collaboration opportunities provided for start-ups across the region.

Based at Birmingham City University’s city centre campus, the scheme will help new companies create sustainable business models, and ensure their products or services are market-ready.

The service is available to students, graduates and academics as well as new start-ups.

The project has been developed to help entrepreneurs respond to the key needs of the West Midlands Local Industrial Strategy, which identified AI and data, an ageing society, clean growth and future mobility as the region’s four ‘grand challenges’.

Targeting key growth areas STEAMincubator will also provide a boost for the regional economy.

The announcement forms part of the government’s UK Research and Innovation funding for University Enterprise Zones (UEZs).

Science Minister Chris Skidmore said: “Small businesses are the lifeblood of our economy, and Birmingham has a thriving ecosystem of local businesses and entrepreneurs whose creativity and determination help underpin the UK’s position as a leading innovator.

Chris Skidmore (second right) with students at the launch of the new funding

“Alongside this, many of Birmingham’s research community are right on the precipice of turning ground-breaking ideas into real products and services which could change the lives not just of people in the local community, but people around the world.

“This funding will not only help local scientists take their ideas from lab to market – but will also support an enterprise hub at Birmingham City University. Providing space for local businesses to forge crucial partnerships, the UEZs will create jobs, drive local growth and provide SMEs with a vital steppingstone to succeed.”

The University’s STEAMhouse, an innovation centre for businesses, will also provide support for those signed up to the scheme, by allowing them to access the facility, which is focused on embedding the arts with traditional science subjects to maximise innovation.

The pilot scheme, which will run for 12 months, aims to support an initial cohort of 25 businesses with more expected to follow.

Professor Julian Beer, deputy vice-chancellor at Birmingham City University, said: “Our STEAMhouse facility has already made a big impact in supporting businesses around the region to work on, develop and implement their creations.

“This funding allows us to take this new way of working to the next level, by providing opportunities for the many entrepreneurs in our region to take important steps towards setting up their own businesses.

“This region’s historic role in the industrial revolution and its growing population of entrepreneurs make it the ideal place for a new way of doing business, and we are delighted that this project will help us continue our leading role in placing STEAM at the heart of its economy.”

Central England Co-operative has already signed up to the STEAMincubator to help support the development of its digital innovation team, which aims to find new and innovative business models.

Senior staff from the business will also provide mentoring for start-ups.

Providing incubation facilities for businesses is believed to provide a boost to the regional economy creating new jobs, developing a knowledge base within communities and creating a new generation of skilled workers.

The STEAMincubator will open its doors to entrepreneurs later this year.

Get involved with STEAMhouse by checking out our upcoming events or by applying for your free STEAMhouse membership here.

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