A South Coast hot bed of entrepreneurial spirit is leading the way when it comes to helping science and technology start-ups fulfil their potential. Four start-up businesses – Parsly, SAL Scientific, RocPro and BluPoint – pitched, and won, the opportunity to be a part of the Catalyst Centre, the business incubator at the University of Southampton Science Park, in 2013. In just six months, they are all on the cusp of breakthrough success: receiving funding, winning awards and taking their innovations onto the world stage. Since its inception Catalyst Centre companies have secured hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of funding and contracts, enabling many of them to develop and flourish.
Starting up a science or technology business is certainly not for the faint hearted. To be taken seriously on the world stage, it seems that collaborative working and embracing help and support at the outset are as important as the concept itself. If a fledgling business is to achieve cut through in this fast paced, hugely competitive global environment, an incubator is one of the best places to start.
BluPoint has received a grant to build a fully functioning prototype of the mobile technology which it hopes will transform the lives of those living in remote locations across rural Africa and India. Parsly has already launched its web application that aims to bridge the gap between finding a tempting dish online and actually getting around to buying the ingredients and recreating it at home, and is attracting the eye of potential investors. SAL Scientific is one of the first companies to be awarded funding under the Future Solent Green Growth Programme, which has enabled it to broaden its offering from consultancy into a range of products and services and, critically, move into laboratory space to facilitate its research into biologic drugs of the future. RocPro, whose inventions for keen cyclists are beginning to attract a lot of attention, will be launching the first of its products shortly in a Kickstarter campaign, having already won multiple awards including ‘The One To Watch’ at The Pitch 2013.
All new businesses can readily access office accommodation and shared services. However, a business incubator goes beyond this. Quite unlike other sources of help for start-ups, the role of an incubator is to increase the chance of success and achieving growth while shortening timeframes and reducing costs. They do so by providing access to physical resources, funding and investment, relevant networks and coaching but often this support comes with a catch – typically 10-15% of a business’s equity is sacrificed on entry.
Created in 2012 to give support to visionary business stars of the future, the Catalyst Centre is fast becoming one of the South’s most sought-after destinations for aspiring science and technology start-ups. Based at Southampton Science Park, it has taken the concept of business incubation and raised the bar. Along with free coaching and support over a six month period from a dedicated mentor, free accommodation in a lively and collaborative office alongside the other winners and up to £1000 towards business expenses, this start-up incubator takes no equity from the businesses it supports. What’s more, because it is solely focused on supporting science and technology-driven business ideas, the opportunities for peer support, knowledge sharing and collaboration through networking within the entrepreneurial community of the Park are significant and have proven to be invaluable for the companies that have participated to date.
The Catalyst Centre welcomes applications from visionaries with an intriguing science or technology-led idea. It’s not essential to have commercial experience or even a business plan at this stage – just a great idea and the drive and determination to succeed because the initiative provides everything for the burgeoning start-up.
There are up to seven places available from September 2014 and entries are open now – visitwww.usspcatalystcentre.org.uk for further information, and to submit an application prior to the closing date of 31st May. Entrants will be asked to complete a short online form, describing their business idea and a shortlist will be invited to pitch their proposition to a judging panel comprising successful entrepreneurs.
Peter Birkett, CEO of Southampton Science Park, said: “Through the Catalyst Centre initiative, we have seen how intensive support and coaching can stimulate technology-driven businesses to grow and develop. Once again, the four start-ups that came to the Catalyst Centre six months ago have achieved fantastic things in a very short space of time. It is inspiring to see this and exciting to contemplate their future success. It has reinforced the Science Park’s view that the Centre is an invaluable resource for start-ups in the sector, providing the necessary tools to turn high quality science or technology ideas into viable businesses.”
Mike Santer, Founder of BluPoint is currently in Africa trialling his fully functioning prototype in remote communities. He commented: “Being at the Catalyst Centre has given my company so many opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise have had. Access to a dedicated mentor who knows my business inside and out has been particularly valuable. His experience helps me to prioritise what I’m doing, and figure out what needs to happen next. Just being based on the Science Park has meant that I’ve met a plethora of people that have enabled me to strive forward every day.”