Ulster Bank has today relaunched its Enterprise programme to boost its support for high-growth SMEs, as well as climate, fintech, and B-Corp focussed businesses. The free programme is open to applications from Northern Ireland SMEs from today, for businesses who will join the programme in June.
Through its Belfast accelerator hub and the wider network of hubs around the UK, Ulster Bank and its sister brands Royal Bank of Scotland and NatWest will support over 1,400 businesses at different stages of growth through the programme, with a particular focus on those companies that grow their turnover or employment by more than 20% each year.
The bank now also commits at least 25% of space on the programme to climate-focussed businesses whose main objective relates to environmentally sustainable practices, building on its sponsorship of the forthcoming UN COP26 climate summit, to be held in Glasgow in November.
The relaunch follows recent findings from the bank’s report into SME recovery in the UK, which found that working with SMEs to increase productivity, and driving a shift towards sustainability were two priorities which, if addressed, could help unlock £140bn of economic growth by 2030.
Mark Crimmins, Head of Ulster Bank in Northern Ireland, said:
“The findings of our recent Springboard to Recovery report showed that scale-ups will be crucial to economic recovery post Covid-19. Scale-ups are 50% more productive than other SMEs, but only a small percentage of all businesses fall into the scale-up category. That’s why we’re relaunching our Ulster Bank Enterprise programme to help more SMEs reach this next level of growth and productivity.
“Combined with increased representation and support for female led businesses and Black, Asian and ethnic minority entrepreneurs, throughout our new cohort and a focus on businesses with sustainability and purpose at their core, we’re excited to be opening our doors again to support the next generation of business success stories in Northern Ireland.”
During the pandemic, Ulster Bank moved its Enterprise programme to a virtual model, offering coaching sessions, virtual events, and specialised 1-1 support to entrepreneurs who would normally be based in the physical accelerator hubs. Over the course of this year, the bank aims to support those on the programme through a blended model, resuming use of its hubs once coronavirus guidelines allow, in conjunction with virtual aspects of the programme that have proved most valuable to entrepreneurs over the last year.
As well as the Accelerator programme, as part of its wider Enterprise programme the bank offers its Business Builder programme, a digital qualification offered to early stage start-ups; and Dream Bigger, an education programme aimed at 16-18 year olds, encouraging them to consider entrepreneurship as a career choice.
NatWest Group is committing to supporting 35,000 UK entrepreneurs through its Enterprise programmes in 2021, and a further 200,000 interventions with future entrepreneurs through mentoring, webinars and coaching. To date, the bank’s initiatives have created nearly 1,300 jobs and contributed in excess of £103million to the economy – with nearly half of all businesses supported since launch female led.
Interested businesses can apply to join the June cohort at the Ulster Bank Entrepreneur Accelerator site.